Poulter chases a 16th appearance at The Open
Nine years after a thrilling Sunday charge at Royal Birkdale, European Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter will compete in Final Qualifying at his home course Woburn seeking to book a return trip to the Southport course.
The Englishman’s quest for a place in the field at The 146th Open Championship is the highlight of an exciting day in which 360 golfers compete over 36 holes at five venues across the United Kingdom.
A total of 15 players will progress, with three spots available at each of Gailles Links, Hillside, Notts Hollinwell, Woburn and Royal Cinque Ports on Tuesday 4 July.
Back in 2008 Poulter enjoyed an electric back nine charge on the final day which saw him briefly join a three-way tie for the lead, before he eventually had to settle for solo second. He finished tied third in 2013, but major championship success has remained elusive.
Injury has disrupted his career in recent times, but this year he has retained his PGA Tour card, proved himself when finishing second at The Players Championship, and now has the opportunity to reacquaint himself with an Open course which clearly suits his game.
Since becoming a venue for Final Qualifying, Woburn has earned a reputation for drawing large galleries and plenty of them will line the fairways in support of local man Poulter, but he is far from the only attraction in the field.
On the south coast of England, Royal Cinque Ports plays host to the former world number one and three-time major winner Vijay Singh. The 54-year-old Fijian golfer is hoping to qualify for a 26th Open start. His best finish was tied second alongside European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn in 2003.
At the same venue England’s Matthew Southgate will be chasing a third victory in Final Qualifying having progressed in 2014 and then again 12 months ago when he ultimately finished T12th at Royal Troon, proving that any of the players in the five fields across the country can justifiably dream of Open glory.
At Notts Hollinwell Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup hopeful Marco Penge is hoping to follow his England teammate and fellow amateur Alfie Plant into the field at Royal Birkdale. Another amateur, Italian Stefano Mazzoli is aiming to return to The Open after he played at Royal Troon in 2016 – he qualified through his 2015 European Amateur Championship win.
The most northerly venue, Gailles Links in Scotland, sees another Challenge Tour star headline. 26-year-old American Julian Suri currently leads the Tour’s rankings and is hoping to earn himself a major championship debut.
At the final venue, Hillside in Southport, Tom Lewis will be hoping to add to his Open story. Six years ago, as a 20-year-old amateur, he shot a first round 65 at Royal St George’s to claim an overnight share of the Championship lead. He ended the week T30th and yet it remains his only Open appearance.
He’s joined in the field by Lee Slattery, the two-time European Tour winner who will be desperate to confirm his place in the final field. Born, bred and resident in Southport, Slattery has played in The Open twice before, making the cut both times and finishing T26th on debut in 2006 at Royal Liverpool.
For the Hillside field there is extra motivation in their location, which is directly next to Royal Birkdale. Indeed, the final holes of both courses run virtually parallel, with the Championship grandstands, tented villages and big screens visible across the entire stretch of linksland.
For some that proximity maybe inspirational, but for all of the competitors at every venue the dream of walking up the final hole in The 146th Open Championship will be fuel enough on Tuesday.