Rahm among those confirmed to play at Royal Birkdale
Seven names, including that of exciting young Spanish talent Jon Rahm, have been added to the field for The 146th Open through Official World Golf Ranking exemptions, as of the week commencing 29th May 2017.
The Spanish 22-year-old, who has enjoyed a superb first full season on the PGA Tour, gave a first hint of his flare when qualifying for last year’s Championship on his very first start as a professional.
Initially exempt for The 145th Open at Royal Troon as winner of the McCormack Medal (given to the world’s top amateur), Rahm opted to turn professional and forfeited his spot.
If there were any lingering doubts about the decision he swept them away by finishing in a tie for third at the Quicken Loans National, part of The Open Qualifying Series USA.
He finished T59th at Royal Troon and will hope to improve on that after a year of remarkable results. He claimed his first win at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and has added a further five top five finishes, including a tied for third finish in the WGC Mexico Championship and second in the WGC World Match Play Championship.
Joining Rahm in the field is 26-year-old Englishman Tommy Fleetwood for whom the week will be very special.
Twelve months ago, his career was in a slump which he identified as starting in 2015 during the second round of The Open at St Andrews. However, a reunion with his former coach Alan Thompson and close friend Ian Finnis, who started to caddie for him, saw a change in Fleetwood’s fortunes.
The upsurge in form since has launched him into the world’s top 50, earned him victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and a career-best WGC finish of solo second in the Mexico Championship.
What’s more the week will be something of a home coming for the Southport born and bred Fleetwood. Making his fourth appearance at The Open, he’ll be hoping that local knowledge will allow him to make the cut for the first time.
The third man to earn exemption is Australia’s Marc Leishman for whom this year’s Championship will be a seventh start, offering him the chance to improve on an excellent record.
He finished tied fifth in 2014 at Royal Liverpool and 12 months later shot weekend rounds of 64-66 to tie Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen after 72 holes before Johnson claimed the win in the four-hole play-off.
The highlight of his 2017 season was victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the second of his career. He’ll be making his debut at Royal Birkdale.
Veteran American Pat Perez has also qualified. The 41-year-old from Arizona spent most of 2016 off the course after sustaining a shoulder injury requiring surgery early in the year. His return to action reaped almost immediate success culminating in victory at the OHL Classic in November, seven years after his only previous win on the PGA Tour.
He finished tied second at the Wells Fargo Championship and is returning to make his fourth appearance at The Open, albeit his first since the Championship was last at Royal Birkdale in 2008, when he missed the cut.
Billy Horschel has earned a fifth successive start in The Open and will want to improve on a record that includes three missed cuts and a best finish of T30th at St Andrews in 2015.
He is unlikely to be fazed by that poor form however. Horschel won the recent AT&T Byron Nelson despite having missed the cut on his four previous starts.
Qualifying for to make their debuts at the Open are Adam Hadwin and Wesley Bryan.
Both men are first-time winners on the PGA Tour this season. Hadwin claimed the Valspar Championship in March and Bryan won The Heritage, after earning Battlefield Promotion to the PGA Tour last year following three victories on the 2016 Web.com Tour season.