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Karlsson withdrawal reduces Open field to 156

ESPN staff
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Sweden's Robert Karlsson has withdrawn from the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, which gets underway on Thursday.

Karlsson, 42, was due to tee off at 1.10pm on Thursday alongside Branden Grace and Mark Wilson. He will not be replaced in the field but the tournament organisers have opted to reshuffle the draw slightly - with Richard Finch replacing Karlsson at the 1.10pm tee time and Barry Lane, James Driscoll and Garth Mulroy now getting the tournament underway at 6.30am as the opening three-ball.

"Have got into some bad habits in my game and routine that I need to address," Karlsson said on Twitter. "Taking a few weeks off."

Lane and Driscoll had originally been due to play as a two-ball, with Finch and Mulroy behind them, due to the odd number of players in the field - but the Royal & Ancient Club made it clear early on Wednesday that it would amend the draw to all three-balls if there was another late withdrawal.

If there is a further withdrawal before the first round is completely underway, reducing the field below 156, then a replacement player will be called in. American Ben Crane was originally the first reserve on the R&A's list, but asked to be removed from consideration late on Wednesday.

Michael Thompson, who contended for four rounds at the recent US Open, is now first in line to be added to the field - with Italy's Matteo Manassero the other player-in-waiting.

The R&A had initially been worried about an inflated field this week in Fylde, but a string of withdrawals - including US Open champion Webb Simpson - has left it with the preferred field size.

"Obviously if our process throws up too large a field it's something we will revisit, which we will do after the championship," chief executive Peter Dawson said on Wednesday.

Championship committee chairman Jim McArthur also revealed that slow play will be subject to much attention this week, with the R&A outlining to players that it expects three-balls to complete the opening two rounds in no more than four hours and 30 minutes.

The R&A has promised slow players will be punished - although penalty shots are unlikely to be involved as anything other than a last resort

"We have emphasised to the players that we are applying the policy stringently," McArthur said. "We have instructed the walking rules officials to take whatever action they feel is appropriate to ensure that these time schedules are met."

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