Oothuizen, Choi earn spots in large Masters field
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Louis Oosthuizen and K.J. Choi can add Augusta National to their travel itinerary.
They were among five players who have moved into the top 50 in the world ranking and earned a spot in the Masters, which could have its largest field in 44 years.
Oosthuizen, the 27-year-old South African who lost a 54-hole lead a week ago in Morocco, won his first European Tour event Sunday at the Andalucia Open in Spain. He earned enough points to move into the top 50.
Choi closed with a 1-over 73 and was tied for 17th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational when the final round was suspended by weather. Choi, who moved up to No. 48 with his runner-up finish a week ago at Innisbrook, will stay in the top 50.
Augusta National takes the top 50 players in the world ranking to be published Monday. The only other way to qualify now is for someone not already eligible to win the Houston Open next week.
The other three players to qualify for the Masters through the world ranking are Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Alvaro Quiros of Spain and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand.
The invitations will not be official until the Arnold Palmer Invitational ends.
With the addition of five players, the field is expected to be at least 98 players. That does not include two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, whose manager said last week he was suffering from rheumatism and would not play this year.
It would be the largest field since 103 players competed in the 1966 Masters.
Of the four majors, the Masters has the smallest field. Only three times since it began in 1934 has the field topped 100 players, with the largest coming in 1962 when 109 players competed.
It will be the fourth consecutive year that international players outnumber Americans at the Masters.
Schwartzel began the year at No. 65, then won back-to-back weeks in South Africa and secured his spot among the top 50 when he was the runner-up to Ernie Els at a World Golf Championship in Doral two weeks ago.
“I’m very excited,” Schwartzel said. “I’ve never been there so I don’t know what to expect.”
He was equally thrilled for Oosthuizen, with whom he competed as a junior. Oosthuizen was at No. 60 in the world until winning by three shots. Depending on the final few holes of Bay Hill, he will be about No. 45 in the world.
“Actually when I was on the golf course, I was more interested in him,” said Schwartzel, who shot a 76 on Sunday.
The biggest move came from Choi, who was at No. 75 until his runner-up finish last week moved him to No. 47. Once he made the cut at Bay Hill, he only needed to finish at least 45th in the tournament.
“My first goal this year was to win,” Choi said. “But anytime you go to Augusta National, it’s good.”