Donald secures return to The Open
Luke Donald breathed a huge sigh of relief after grabbing one of the four Open Championship places on offer at the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship.
England's former world number one looked as if he might just miss out when he bogeyed the final hole at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut for a closing 66 and 11-under-par total.
“The Claret Jug brings up a lot of great memories, watching The Open as a kid, and obviously some memories playing it as a professional. It’s the Major I would love to win the most, coming from the UK.”
But Mark Wilson then also dropped a stroke there to finish on the same mark and, once fellow American Chris Stroud had bogeyed the 17th and 18th to slip from one ahead of him to one behind, Donald's place at St Andrews was secure by virtue of him having a higher world ranking than Wilson and Bo Van Pelt.
The other three spots from the latest leg of the Open Qualifying Series went to left-hander Brian Harman, Canadian Graham DeLaet and Swede Carl Pettersson - third, fourth and fifth respectively in a tournament won by Bubba Watson after a play-off with Paul Casey. Both were already exempt for the Home of Golf.
Donald finished in a tie for seventh, jointly his best finish of a year which had seen his ranking fall to 68th, forcing him to go through qualifying for the US Open. Now he hopes things are about to ignite for him again.
He finished 11th when The Open was last at St Andrews in 2010, was fifth at Turnberry 12 months before that and fifth again at Royal Lytham & St Annes three years ago.
Donald told reporters: "The Claret Jug brings up a lot of great memories, watching The Open as a kid, and obviously some memories playing it as a professional. It’s the Major I would love to win the most, coming from the UK."
Harman is making a habit of leaving it late to earn himself an Open start. Last year he won the John Deere Classic on the Sunday before the Championship at Royal Liverpool.
It will be a second Open for him, a third for DeLaet and an eighth for Pettersson, whose best finish was tied eighth at Hoylake in 2006.
The tournament also resolved who earned exemptions by being in the top 20 of this season's FedEx Cup points standings. Five could have done so, but in the end it was only four - Charley Hoffmann, Robert Streb, Kevin Kisner and Steven Bowditch.
Over in Munich, meanwhile, the BMW International Open was the last chance for players to move into the European Tour's top 20 this season and claim one of the five Open places available through that route. But only two of those spots were taken up as things turned out.
Swede Alex Noren had one of them sewn up once he won the Nordea Masters in his home country early in June and so returns to The Open after injury restricted him to a mere two European Tour events last season, while Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat had his April victory at the Shenzhen International to thank for his place at the Home of Golf.
England's James Morrison was in position to qualify as well when he led in Germany with a round to go, but a closing 77 that dropped the Spanish Open champion to joint 11th means he must try again at this week's French Open and next week's Scottish Open. There are three places available in each event, while in America there are four at the Greenbrier Classic and one at the John Deere Classic.
A further six players have secured their places in the starting field as the highest ranked non-exempt players in the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of Week 26 – 29 June 2015. They are: Francesco Molinari, Matt Jones, Tim Clark, David Lingmerth, Harris English and Daniel Berger.