Clarke and Kaymer welcome Open Qualifying Series to Thailand
Darren Clarke and Martin Kaymer believe that the Thailand Golf Championship has taken on extra significance this year with the addition of the Open Qualifying Series to the tournament.
A total of four places at the 144th Open Championship, to be played next July at St Andrews, will be up for grabs at Amata Spring Country Club and Clarke is fully behind the initiative.
“It is the biggest and best tournament in the world. There's nothing bigger than The Open.”
"It is the biggest and best tournament in the world. There's nothing bigger than The Open," said Clarke, who enjoyed the finest moment of his distinguished career at The 140th Open at Royal St George’s in 2011, where he held off Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson to lift the Claret Jug.
"I think the Qualifying Series gives the guys, as opposed to a two-day event, a longer period to perform better over the tournaments. I think it's a wonderful idea."
The Open Qualifying Series replaced International Final Qualifying for The Open, which was introduced in 2004 and involved standalone 36-hole qualifying events. The Series gives players the opportunity to qualify at events on the Asian Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA TOUR, the European Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Sunshine Tour with a total of 44 places in The Open available.
Although Clarke and the other star names in the Thailand Golf Championship field – which includes Kaymer, defending champion Sergio Garcia, two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, Ryder Cup players Lee Westwood and Victor Dubuisson and local favourite Thongchai Jaidee – are already assured of their places at St Andrews, The Open spots on offer will go to the leading four players who finish inside the top 12 who are not already exempt.
Kaymer, who is playing in Thailand for the very first time, echoed Clarke’s thoughts and said the Open Qualifying Series represents a wonderful chance for Asian players to showcase their skills at St Andrews.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for a lot of the Asian players to follow Thongchai a little bit,” said Kaymer, who collected his second Major title this summer after a dominant display at Pinehurst.
“Obviously he has played The Open before and he knows how great it is to play that event and hopefully some of the Asian players will get that experience, too.”
Kaymer’s best result at The Open was at St Andrews in 2010 when he finished tied 7th. He won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship later that year on the Old Course and is eager to make his return to the Home of Golf.
“It’s my favourite golf course in the world really, it’s so natural and a great experience. The whole spirit of the town and the history there is really what golf is all about. It’s going to be one of the best Major years of my career so far.
“The Open is the only Major we have in Europe and as a European it would be a great honour to one day lift that trophy, especially at St Andrews.”