Notebook: Masters field looks almost certain to be under 100 players again

John Senden
Getty Images
John Senden, by winning the Valspar Championship, became the 94th player eligible for the Masters.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 | 5:32 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. – It looks virtually certain that the Masters will again keep its field under 100 players, which Augusta National prefers. The Masters, with the smallest field among majors, has not exceeded 100 players since 103 competed in 1966. 
 
John Senden's win at the Valspar Championship made him the 94th player eligible. There are three PGA Tour events remaining where a winner could get in (Bay Hill, Valero Texas Open and Shell Houston Open). From the world ranking after the Texas Open, only Stephen Gallacher at No. 37 is a lock to get in. 
 
That leaves Richard Sterne (No. 52) and George Coetzee (No. 56) on the outside. Neither are PGA Tour members, and there are no European Tour events remaining before the cutoff through the world ranking. Neither is in the field next week at the Texas Open. 
 
For PGA Tour members, Chesson Hadley is at No. 59 and Ryan Palmer is at No. 63. 
 
CAROLINA: Wells Fargo has extended its title sponsorship on the PGA Tour for five more years, even if that means leaving Quail Hollow for one year. 
 
The Wells Fargo Championship became one of the top events when it began in 2003 because of the golf course and hospitality. It now will be part of the PGA Tour schedule through 2019, one of seven tournaments that are secure through at least 2019. 
 
SPARTAN SISTERS: Juli Inkster selected Pat Hurst to be her assistant captain at the Solheim Cup next year in Germany, a natural pick. They are longtime friends and traveling companions. Both went to San Jose State – just not at the same time. 
 
"She actually went to San Jose State on the `Juli Inkster scholarship.' I don't think it helped her much, but what the heck," Inkster said. 
 
She said Hurst called her "Mrs. Inkster" the first time they met. Their friendship began in South Africa when she invited Hurst to be her partner in a World Cup. 
 
CHESSON'S CHASE: Chesson Hadley knocked in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and celebrated like it was a winning putt on Sunday afternoon. 
 
This was only Friday at Innisbrook, but it was worthy of a fist pump. 
 
He made the cut on the number. 
 
"That felt just as good as the win last week," Hadley said, referring to his victory in the Puerto Rico Open. "I hate missing cuts. It stinks." 
 
He knows from experience, having missed five in a row. But after the long birdie to make the cut at the Valspar Championship, Hadley made the most of his chance with rounds of 67-71 on the weekend. That moved him up to a tie for 14th. 
 
Hadley now is No. 59 in the world, and has two more weeks to try to crack the top the 50 and get into the Masters. 
 
DIVOTS: Jason Day is done until the Masters. He withdrew from Bay Hill with lingering pain from a thumb injury. The Australian plans to rest the next two weeks, and then go to Augusta National early with Colin Swatton, his caddie and coach. ... The opening three events on the Florida Swing were won with scores of 8-under-par (Honda Classic), 4-under-par (Cadillac Championship) and 7-under-par (Valspar Championship). Throw out opposite field events or majors, and the last time three straight PGA Tour events were won with a score that was single-digit under par was in 1990. Payne Stewart won the Byron Nelson Classic (8 under), Greg Norman won the Memorial (even) and Ben Crenshaw won Colonial (8 under). ... Jonathan Byrd tied for 32nd at Innisbrook and earned $31,540. That enabled him to fulfill his major medical extension for the rest of the year. ... Here's one way to measure the conditions at Innisbrook last week. The difference between first and last place after one round was only 10 shots. ... The Valspar Championship was the fifth PGA Tour event this year that featured a 54-hole cut because more than 78 players made it to the weekend. 
 
STAT OF THE WEEK: John Senden was the first player to win a PGA Tour event with an opening round over par since Justin Rose at the U.S. Open last year. 
 
FINAL WORD: "Whoever shows up at an event nowadays has a chance to win." – Patrick Reed.