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Beem set for first show

Augusta: US PGA champion Rich Beem will play in his first US Masters next April as one of 87 players who were sent invitations this week to the year’s first major meet, organisers have announced.

Beem, who held off a late charge by world number one Tiger Woods to clinch the 84th US PGA championship by a shot at Hazeltine in August, earns an automatic invitation as one of this year’s four Grand Slam winners.

In all, 10 players who have never before competed in the Masters at Augusta National — as well as a record 39 foreign-born players — should receive their official invitations in the post over the next few days.

However, the final field will not be decided until the week before the 2003 tournament is staged from April 10 to 13.

Earlier this year, organisers made two changes to Masters qualification aimed to help guarantee that the most in-form players compete in the opening major of the season.

The top 10 players from the US PGA Tour money list published one week before the Masters qualify for the event, as well as the top 50 from the world rankings that same week.

Previously, it was only the top three from the US money list and the top 50 from the world rankings — published four weeks prior to the tournament — who gained automatic entry.

Woods, the defending champion, will be bidding to become the first player to win the title three years in a row.

He won his third Masters green jacket this April after firing a one-under-par 71 in the final round, finishing three shots clear of Retief Goosen. Woods secured the seventh major title of his career and became the third back-to-back winner at Augusta National, after Jack Nicklaus in 1966 and Nick Faldo in 1990.

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