Rhein Gibson did no harm to his attempt to open a bright new chapter in his career with an opening round score of 72.
Since 2012, the 28 year-old Australian has had to answer questions about the world record 16-under-par 55 he shot at River Oaks Golf Club in Edmond, Oklahoma, and he would like nothing better than to make some new headlines for himself.
Rhein gets the opportunity thanks to the new Open Championship qualification system that allowed him to qualify as one of the three leading players (not otherwise exempt) who finished in the top-10 at the 2013 Australian Open.
He is one of 32 players who earned Open places at Open Qualifying Series events in Australia, South Africa, Thailand, Japan, Ireland, France, Scotland and the US and they will be joined at Hoylake by another 12 players who came through the traditional Local and Local Final Qualifying events in the UK.
Gibson does not regret for a second earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records but he craves to be known as something other than The Man Who Shot 55.
“It’s nice to be recognised as a world record holder but I don’t want it to be my career,” he said. “I’m trying to make a career out of golf.”
Gibson believes the new Open Qualifying Series is much better than the system it replaced and hopes it is retained in future years. “It makes it much easier for us all to play the qualifying events in conjunction with other tournaments,” he said while practising on the eve of his 10.54 first round tee time alongside America’s Brian Harman and Hyung Tae Kim from Korea.
“I also think most of the players believe it’s a good idea to play the qualifiers over 72 holes. That’s what we play week in week out and it’s much fairer than relying on a 36-hole sprint.”
The R&A was keen to retain the traditional Open Local and Final Qualifying but it did sanction one change to the latter with the four Final Qualifying events being staged around the country (at Gailes Links, Hillside, Woburn and Sunningdale) rather than at four venues close to where the Championship itself is being played.
One player who came through Local Final Qualifying (at Hillside) was 28 year-old Englishman, Chris Hanson, who reached the semi-finals of the British Boys’ Championship at Hoylake back in 2003, but could only manage a nine-over-par round of 81 in today’s first round.
“I can see why they (The R&A) changed the system but I’m glad they retained the Local and Final Qualifying because it gives the little guy a chance. My wife persuaded me to enter on the last day and I’m glad I did because it has given me the chance to rub shoulders with the best players in the world.
“I was buzzing when I qualified and I think that helped when I went straight to Germany and finished tied third in a Challenge Tour event over there. Now all I’ve got to do is to try to get in the same frame of mind tomorrow.”
R&A Chief Executive, Peter Dawson, is delighted with the way the players have responded to the new qualification system.
“I must say we’ve been very happy with our new Open Qualifying Series this year,” he said. “We decided to use Tour events (as qualifiers) for two reasons: One to get a more rigorous 72-hole qualification and also to make it more convenient for the players.
“However, we have been careful not just to make it an event for Tour players and that’s why we have kept our Local and Final Qualifying here in the UK. It’s good to see that two players have come through both Local and Final Qualifying and that one of them is a local player, John Singleton, who I know the crowds will be very keen to see.
“Qualifying is a balance,” Dawson added. “We want as strong a field as we can but, on the other hand, we want to keep the Open ethos going too.”