Three places at Royal Troon on the line at the Joburg Open
The Open Qualifying Series moves to South Africa this week where three places in The 145TH Open at Royal Troon are on the line at the Joburg Open.
Co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour, the event is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2016 and features a field of 210 players competing across Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s East and West courses in pursuit of the Joburg Open trophy and a spot in golf’s oldest and most international championship.
Brandon Stone leads the contingent of nearly 100 South African players in the field trying to secure a berth at Royal Troon. The 22-year-old from Rustenburg earned his maiden professional victory last week at the BMW South African Open and is looking to book a place in his first Major Championship.
“If I can get a position in The Open and the end of the week it would be great. Hopefully I can play The Open many times again in the future, I’ve had such a great time the last couple of years,”
Ireland’s Paul Dunne is looking for another attempt at the Claret Jug after delivering a memorable performance at The 144TH Open at St Andrews where he shared the lead at the end of the third round while still an amateur. The 23-year-old, who was also part of the victorious GB&I Walker Cup side in September, earned his European Tour card at the end of last year and is looking to secure his first professional win and a third consecutive start at The Open this week in Johannesburg.
“If I can get a position in The Open and the end of the week it would be great. Hopefully I can play The Open many times again in the future, I’ve had such a great time the last couple of years,” said Dunne, who was forced to withdraw from the South African Open last week due to a bout of food poisoning but has returned to form this week.
“The Open Qualifying Series is a great bonus. I’m going to try and focus on the event and take it as it comes and try and play well this week.”
Other players in the field looking to qualify for Royal Troon include 2008 and 2013 Joburg Open winner Richard Sterne of South Africa, 2010 European Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari and former Amateur Champions Matteo Manassero of Italy and Bradley Neil of Scotland.
Two-time Champion Golfer of the Year Ernie Els will make his Joburg Open debut this week in his home country. The 46-year-old has already secured his place at Royal Troon along with Paul Lawrie, winner of The Open in 1999, and five-time European Tour winner David Howell.
Also exempt is 2014 Joburg Open champion George Coetzee, who secured a place in The Open after finishing at the top of the 2015 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. The 29-year-old from Pretoria earned two victories last year at the Tshwane Open and the Mauritius Open before an ankle injury brought an early end to his season. He will make his sixth appearance at The Open in 2016 and his first at Royal Troon.
The fifth player to have booked his place in golf’s oldest Major is South African Jaco Van Zyl, who is looking for his first Joburg Open crown after earning 13 victories on the Sunshine Tour. The 36-year-old earned his place in The Open after finishing in the top 30 of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and will make his second consecutive appearance at The Open this July.
The Joburg Open begins Thursday with 210 players taking to Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s East and West Courses. Following Friday’s second round, the field will be cut to the top 65 players and ties, who will play the final two rounds on the East Course.
Seven players have already secured places in The Open through the first two events in The Qualifying Series: Matt Jones, Rod Pampling and Nick Cullen from the Emirates Australian Open and Jamie Donaldson, Lee Westwood, Clement Sordet and Phachara Khongwatmai from the Thailand Golf Championship.