India’s Anirban Lahiri earned his Major debut at The Open Championship after shooting a final round five-under-par 67 at International Final Qualifying (IFQ) Asia today.
In-form Lahiri, winner of the Asian Tour’s SAIL-SBI Open in India last week, will be joined at Royal Lytham & St Annes this July by Prayad Marksaeng, who shot the best round of 64, Kodai Ichihara of Japan and Mardan Mamat of Singapore. Mamat sealed the fourth and final spot by winning a three-way play-off against compatriot Lam Chih-Bing and Jonathan Moore of the United States.
Play was suspended for more than two and a half hours due to lightning threats with the final two groups still to finish the 36-hole event at Amata Spring Country Club.
Amongst them was two-time Asian Amateur Championship winner Hideki Matsuyama (pictured). The 20-year-old, who became the first Asian winner of the Silver Cup for low amateur at last year’s Masters Tournament, looked certain to qualify after shooting a six-under-par 30 over the first nine holes. However, the Japanese student came unstuck with a double-bogey at 16th, a bogey at the 17th and a triple bogey seven at the 18th to finish 10th.
Lahiri shot 35 over the first nine holes before a back nine which included an eagle-three on the 15th hole when his five-wood approach shot landed three feet from the hole.
“It has been a childhood dream of mine. It feels really nice. This is the third IFQ I have come for and the last couple of times I played pretty poorly. It is really nice that I have made it,” said Lahiri, who posted a nine-under-par 135.
The young Indian (pictured, left) was delighted to add a Major appearance to his fledgling career which has included two Asian Tour titles.
He added: “This is something every player looks forward to. I’m glad we have this opportunity on the Asian Tour. The fact that I have come here and won it is very special to me and I hope that I can make it a memorable one at The Open.”
Marksaeng, a six-time Asian Tour winner, bounced back from an opening 73 courtesy of a new driver and some good putting including a 50-foot birdie putt from the edge of the eighth green. He will be making his fifth appearance in The Open.
“I was very lucky today because I sank all my long putts. Everything just clicked for me from my driving to my putting. It was just one of those good days. It feels great to qualify for The Open again and this time, I’ll be aiming to make the cut for the first time in my career,” said Marksaeng, who shot a flawless round highlighted by six straight birdies from the sixth hole.
Ichihara, who missed out on a fourth and final ticket to The Open by one shot last year, battled into third place with a flawless 69.
“I feel excellent. I didn’t think about last year at all. I came here with a lot of positives and I’m glad I finally made it through. I feel great and I can’t wait to play in The Open. I feel sorry for Matsuyama. He played well except for three bad holes,” said Ichihara.
Mamat, playing four groups ahead of overnight leaders Moore and Lahiri, had an agonising three-hour wait before playing in the play-off where he triumphed thanks to a tricky 12 foot birdie putt on the par four 18th hole.
Mamat, who closed with a 69 to tie in regulation play with Lam and Moore on 140, said: “I told Lam before the play-off that no matter what, one of us has to win the play-off and I was glad I did. It is remarkable to make my third appearance in The Open.”
Scores after round two of the IFQ Asia being played at the par 72, 7441yard, Amata Spring course (A — denotes amateur):
135 — Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 68-67.
137 — Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 73-64.
138 — Kodai ICHIHARA (JPN) 69-69.
140 — LAM Chih-Bing (SIN) 71-69, Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 71-69, Jonathan MOORE (USA) 68-72.
141 — Arnond VONGVANIJ (THA) 72-69, Scott HEND (AUS) 71-70, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 71-70.
142 — Guido VAN DER VALK (NED) 73-69, Javi COLOMO (ESP) 74-68, Kunal BHASIN (AUS) 70-72, Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 70-72, Hideki MATSUYAMA (A, JPN) 69-73.
143 — Himmat RAI (IND) 73-70, PARK Ju-hyuk (KOR) 77-66, Scott BARR (AUS) 69-74.