The field for the 80th Masters awaits the possibility of just two more players – the winner of the Shell Houston Open and Tiger Woods – but for South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl, the chance to join compatriots Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace at Augusta ended in Austin last week.
Van Zyl’s final opportunity to earn an invitation to the year’s first major championship via the top 50 in the world category was at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship last week.
The world number 52 was one of seven players in the bubble around the top 50 who started the Dell Match Play with a shot to make the field, including Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello (54), Belgium’s Thomas Pieters (57), Australians Marcus Fraser (62) and Matt Jones (63), American Patton Kizzire (65) and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Oleson (66).
As the lowest seeds in their respective pools, the odds were stacked against each of them, but Van Zyl had the most realistic chance, simply needing to win his pool against the rugged trio of Danny Willett, Brooks Koepka and Billy Horschel to reach the top 50.
The 14-time Sunshine Tour champion halved against European Tour winner Willett, but his campaign ended with a 5 & 4 loss to Koepka in the second round. The consolation 2 & 1 victory over Horschel was too little, too late.
Meanwhile Cabrera-Bello lost his semi-final tussle to South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, but vaulted from 54 to 36 in the Official World Golf Ranking to earn his invitation.
If the winner of the Shell Houston Open is not already invited, he will earn the last spot in the field. Woods, 40, is invited for life due to his four victories in the tournament, but he has yet to say if he will participate. The 14-time major champion has not competed since the second of two back surgeries in October and he tied for 10th in his last appearance at the Wyndham Championship in August last year.
Meanwhile three invitees have withdrawn, including Jim Furyk ,who is out due to wrist surgery, two-time champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who is dealing with arthritis issues that have kept him out since the 2015 Masters and Sang-moon Bae, who had to forgo his invitation due to his South Korean mandatory military obligation.
As the Masters field stands, there are 89 players scheduled to compete, the fewest since 2002.