Seven places in The Open at stake in Ireland and Japan
The road to St Andrews continues this week with three places in the 144th Open at stake at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation and four places available at the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open in Japan.
A strong international field will take to the links at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland for the Irish Open where three players who finish in the top ten and ties, who are not otherwise exempt, will qualify for The Open which will be played at the home of golf from 16-19 July.
Players seeking a place at St Andrews include former world number one Luke Donald of England who has twice finished in the top five at The Open, 2015 Shenzhen International winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand and former European Ryder Cup player Francesco Molinari of Italy. Five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland will lead the home charge and will hope to repeat his success of 2014 where he earned a place in The Open through the Open Qualifying Series in France.
The Amateur Champion, Bradley Neil of Scotland, who played in The Open at Royal Liverpool last year, will also be looking to secure a place in golf’s oldest championship along with Irish amateurs Gary Hurley, Jack Hume and Gavin Moynihan, who won the Irish Amateur Open Championship earlier this month.
“We are delighted that the Irish Open is once again part of the Open Qualifying Series in 2015,” said Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A. “There is tremendous support for golf in Northern Ireland and with such a strong field competing for the trophy and for places in The Open at St Andrews it promises to be a great week.”
Thirty-eight players in the field have already earned exemptions into The Open including tournament host Rory McIlroy, the 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year, defending Irish Open champion Mikko Ilonen and past Open Champions Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie and Ernie Els. Other players that have secured positions in the field at St Andrews include 2015 BMW PGA champion Byeong Hun An, as well as Brett Rumford, Marcus Fraser, Scott Hend, Anirban Lahiri, Jonathan Moore, David Howell, Andy Sullivan and Anthony Wall who all earned places at earlier 2015 Open Qualifying Series events in Australia, Thailand and South Africa.
In Japan, JFE Setonaikai Golf Club in Okayama will host the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open where a field of 144 players will compete over 72 holes from 28-31 May. Four players that finish in the top 12 and ties, who are not otherwise exempt, will earn qualifying places at St Andrews.
Home favourites Shingo Katayama and Toru Taniguchi will be bidding to make a return to The Open alongside former Mizuno Open champions Dong-Kyu Jang of Korea, the 2014 winner, Australia’s Brendan Jones and Brad Kennedy and Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng who has made five previous Open appearances.
Other contenders for a place in The Open include 2009 PGA Championship winner YE Yang of Korea and China’s Liang Wen-Chong, who was the first player from China to make the cut in a Major Championship at the 2008 Open at Royal Birkdale. Japan’s Yuta Ikeda, winner of the 2014 Japan Open, has already secured his place in the 144th Open alongside Koumei Oda and Hiroyuki Fujita who finished first and second in the official money list of the Japan Golf Tour in 2014.