Midland hopes for a local winner of this week's Quinn Direct British Masters at The Belfry have been hit by the late withdrawal of Steve Webster.

The Atherstone golfer had been hopeful of being fit to return to action around the famous Brabazon Course this morning following the painful back problem that has kept him out of the last three European Tour events. But, although Webster is here at The Belfry this week, it will be merely to continue receiving treatment from the European Tour's physiotherapy team.

Webster picked up the injury last month at the KLM Open in the Netherlands and is still unsure when he will be fit. However, his Tour card is already secured for a 13th successive year following the mid-summer purple patch which saw him pick up three Top-10 finishes inside a month at the Scottish Open, the Deutsche Bank Open, and the Russian Open.

It is a big disappointment for Webster to miss this increasingly rare chance to perform in front of friendly galleries while Worcestershire's John Bickerton has opted to give this week a miss. However, there are five other local players on show. Maxstoke Park's Sam Walker has already stated his intention to perform on a course he knows well as he bids to move up from 128th place on the money list.

The Belfry's Robert Rock, who sits two places higher than Walker, also needs a good week as he, too, bids to keep his Tour card.

Tom Whitehouse, the second of The Belfry's two touring professionals, is out to match the eighth place and £40,000 prize money he enjoyed here last year while Paul Broadhurst, seventh 12 months ago, plays his second Tour event in two months as he returns to action following his wife Lorraine's operation.

He had intended to miss the rest of the season but Mrs Broadhurst's so-far speedy recovery means he is able to swap the school run for a place at one of the more lucrative events in the European golfing calendar.

Broadhurst, who lies 63rd on the Order of Merit, will also play at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in a fortnight's time. He hopes to earn enough over the two weeks to secure the Top-60 slot which automatically earns a place at the season's final event, the Volvo Masters at Valderrama in November.

Peter Baker takes a break from Challenge Tour duty to compete once more for the title he won in 1993 thanks to a record low score of 266. The Wolverhampton golfer, currently 20th in the second-tier tour's money list, should have gone to Asia this week for the Kazakhstan Open.

The top 20 in the final rankings automatically earn cards for the main tour but perhaps Baker cannot be blamed for preferring the more familiar surrounds of Eastern Birmingham and the luxury of sleeping in his own bed at night.

Along with Sandy Lyle (1988), Gary Orr (2000), Thomas Levet (2001), Barry Lane (2004) and last year's victor Johan Edfors, Baker is one of five men bidding to join the British Masters' long and illustrious list of two-time winners.

Bobby Locke, Dai Rees, Harry Weetman, Harry Bradshaw, Christy O'Connor, Bernard Hunt, Coby Legrange, Peter Thomson, Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Severiano Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Ian Woosnam have all won the prize twice. No-one has gone on to get a third title.

David Howell, back on a proper practice programme after struggling with back problems, is a real contender and Ian Poulter may have a point to prove after being hit in one of his elegantly-tailored pockets by the European Tour after damaging a tee marker during last week's Mercedes-Benz Championship in Cologne.

However, 2003 winner Paul Casey has withdrawn "feeling very tired" and plans to spend time preparing for next week's Seve Trophy in Ireland. That means Edfors is the only man in the field who has triumphed here at The Belfry.