Strong European Tour challenge bound for Augusta

4/2/2013 11:48:41 AM
Rory McIlroy   (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

There will be a strong European Tour contingent heading to Augusta National for next week’s Masters Tournament, with 38 members sealing their places in the first Major Championship of the 2013 season.

Led by World Number Two Rory McIlroy, the European Tour challenge for the famous Green Jacket will include seven debutants and nine players inside the World’s Top 20.

McIlroy, who won the last Major Championship of 2012 at the US PGA Championship, is joined by World Number Three Justin Rose, who finished tied eighth last year, and World Number Four Luke Donald, as well as World Number Six Louis Oosthuizen, who lost in a play-off to Bubba Watson 12 months ago.

While those four players were already assured of their spots at the Masters Tournament, Henrik Stenson made a late surge into the World’s Top 50 to earn his invitation at Monday’s cut-off point.
The Swede’s joint second place in the Shell Houston Open on the US PGA Tour moved him from 53rd position on the Official World Golf Ranking to 42nd, meaning that Germany’s Marcel Siem missed out by the smallest of margins despite his victory in the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco last weekend.

Stenson joins compatriots Peter Hanson, the Ryder Cup player who led going into the final round last year before finishing in a share of third position, and Carl Pettersson.

Race to Dubai leader Richard Sterne qualified in 49th position to take his place as part of an impressive South African contingent alongside Oosthuizen, that also includes two former Green Jacket winners in Trevor Immelman (2008) and Charl Scharwtzel (2011), reigning Open Champion, Ernie Els, Tim Clark and two debutants in Branden Grace and George Coetzee.

The latter pair are joined by fellow first timers Nicolas Colsaerts, of Belgium, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Englishman David Lynn, Dane Thorbjørn Olesen and Thaworn Wiratchant, the Thai who received one of the special International Invites from the Masters Committee.
Italian Matteo Manassero, the World Number 46, is the youngest European Tour Member in the field, as he returns to Augusta National a week before celebrating his 20th birthday.

The three-time European Tour winner will be playing his first Masters Tournament as a professional, having finished an impressive tied 36th on his previous visit as an amateur in 2010, when he became the youngest player to make the cut in the history of the Masters Tournament, aged 16.

At the other end of the scale, former Champions in the field include: Bernhard Langer, 20 years after the German won his second Green Jacket; Sandy Lyle on the 25th anniversary of his victory; Europe’s victorious 2012 Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal, 1991 winner Ian Woosnam,  Vijay Singh and Angel Cabrera, who all join 63 year old Tom Watson, the 2014 United States Ryder Cup Captain.