NEC Amateur attracts class field

This week's NEC Master of the Amateurs has attracted arguably the strongest amateur international field to ever play an Australian event with four of the top-10 world ranked amateur golfers, as ranked by the R&A, competing at Yarra Yarra Golf Club in Melbourne starting Monday.

France's and world number 2, Victor Dubuisson, heads the field as well as USA's two highest ranked amateurs and Walker Cup members, Bud Cauley and Morgan Hoffmann. Another American, Russell Henley rounds out the forth player inside the world's top-10 which spearheads the 50 player strong international field with representatives from Wales, Vanuatu, USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Poland, France, Fiji, England and Australia.

Dubuisson is the current European Amateur Champion and makes his second return to Australia after competing for France at the 2008 World Amateur Teams Championship in Adelaide. The Frenchman will start one of the tournament's favourites, along with Morgan Hoffmann, quarter-finalist at this year's US Amateur Championship and recent winner of the Big 12 Championship in the USA.

England's Tommy Fleetwood, runner-up at the 2008 British Amateur, is a player that should also perform well at Yarra Yarra. The Walker Cup member and world number 18 is a twice winner in 2009 with the Scottish Open Amateur and the S&A Bowl Formby Hare (UK) and will make his maiden visit to the famed Melbourne sand belt region.

Fleetwood's colleague and England's number one ranked player, Matt Haines, is another international to follow this week. Haines, like Fleetwood, was a twice winner during 2009 with the Hampshire Salver and Berkhamsted Trophy and was runner-up at the St Andrews Links Trophy and Welsh Open Amateur.

The strong international appearance of many of the world's best players has moved the Master of the Amateurs to be the highest ranked event in Australia, currently ranked at 51 on the R&A World Rankings, to be well above the Australian Amateur and Lake Macquarie Amateur tournaments.

The field this week also includes many of Australia's gun amateurs, with our top ranked player and world number 10, Matt Jager ready to claim his first "Green Jacket".

A win in defending his Federal Amateur last October had Jager back in the winner's circle and he ended the year out nicely with a tied second finish at the Nedlans Masters, a professional event in Western Australia.

Supporting Jager is Bryden Macpherson, the 2009 Australian and New Zealand Amateur Stroke Play Champion and the informed Kieran Pratt, who won three times during December with the Dunes Medal, Victorian Amateur Stroke and the Victorian Amateur Championship.

Another Australian to follow is Tarquin MacManus who is based with the University of Arizona. MacManus comes off an impressive 2009 US amateur season where he secured two top-10 finishes, including a tie for 3rd at the Southern Amateur Championship at the Colonial Country Club in Tennessee.

Daniel Beckmann should also not be discounted and he has the added advantage of playing at this home club.

Last year at this event Beckmann was unlucky missing reaching the playoff with Rickie Fowler and Mark Anderson by a stroke after leading the field going into the final day. During 2009, Beckmann collected his second National Trial event in April with a win at the Mandurah Easter Amateur in Western Australia which made amends after finishing runner-up to Scott Arnold a few week's earlier at the Australian Amateur Championship.

It sets the stage for an intriguing tournament in what is arguably the strongest amateur event in this country.

To the victor following the four round stroke format go the spoils, with starts at the British Amateur, Porter Cup, the Players Amateur, the Dogwood Invitational and the Canadian Men's Amateur.

Previous Master of the Amateurs winners including Brendan Jones (1999), Ben Meyers (2002), Andrew Tampion, (2004) Ashley Hall (2005) and Jason Day (2006). Last year Mark Anderson won the event from fellow American, Rickie Fowler, on the third play-off hole after both players finished the tournament proper at 4-under-par.

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