Melbourne, Australia:For a European PGA Tour event, the Australian Masters has turned out to have a shortage of Europeans.
Danish golfer Thomas Bjorn was the only European player in the top 100 to travel to Melbourne's Huntingdale for the event, which is being co-sanctioned with the Australasian PGA Tour.
But Bjorn was forced to pull out of the tournament Wednesday to return to Denmark, where his wife, Pernilla, will undergo back surgery.
When Bjorn arrived on Tuesday, he said the timing at the end of an extensive European season, the long-haul travel and lower prize money compared with other tournaments contributed to the low player turnout.
"Times have changed very much, especially the European Tour has changed in that we play a season that begins in the middle of January and finishes a week before Christmas," Bjorn said. "There's going to be times in the year when players are not going to play that much.
"Certainly the top players are going to feel that they've had long seasons ... I'm not surprised, I have to say, that there's not that many (European) people down here."
Sweden's Daniel Chopra is the highest profile player among the 35 Europeans in the field. Chopra won the Ginn sur Mer Classic on the US PGA Tour in October, edging Fredrik Jacobsen and Shigeki Maruyama by a stroke at Tesoro in Port St Lucie, Florida.
The Masters begins on Thursday on the par-72, 6,383-meter (6,980-yard) Huntingdale course. It offers total prize money of 1.5 million Australian dollars (US$1.35 million, euro910,000), and the winner receives A$270,000 (US$243,000, euro164,000).
On the US PGA Tour and in some European events, the winner often receives close to what the Masters is offering as its total prize money.
Bjorn, who has twice finished second in the British Open and once in the US PGA Championship, said golf's administrators have to look at scheduling.
"It's something that needs to be addressed more from a tour point of view, saying how are we going to make schedules work so that more of our top players can play in the events we want them to play in," added Bjorn.
Next week's New Zealand Open is also co-sanctioned by the European and Australasian tours, and there are few Europeans planning to play there.
The Australian PGA and the Australian Open follow on consecutive weeks in what has evolved - through sponsorship problems and competition from other tours - into only a four-week season on the Australasian Tour.
Aaron Baddeley, Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Mark Hensby, John Senden and Peter Lonard lead the Australian contingent at the Masters. Australia's two top-ranked players, Adam Scott and former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, are not playing.