Russell heads the Regional Qualifiers
Raymond Russell’s quest to return to the scene of his greatest Open Championship performance remains on track after he advanced from a dramatic day of Regional Qualifying.
At 13 venues across Britain and Ireland over 1,200 golfers endeavoured to take one step closer to securing a place at The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.
For Russell, 44, the opportunity to play again at the Southport course is especially poignant because in 1998 he finished tied fourth there alongside Justin Rose, just one shot behind Tiger Woods, and a mere two strokes outside the play-off which Mark O’Meara eventually won.
The Scotsman – who won the European Tour’s 1996 Cannes Open – is now a talent spotter for a club manufacturer but returned to Regional Qualifying inspired by the chance to revive 19-year-old memories.
He made four birdies in his two-under-par 68 at Sandy Lodge and could even afford a final hole bogey as he finished the day tied second, one shot behind Jack Hawksby.
Matthew Jordan, winner of the St Andrews Links Trophy earlier this month, survived a three-man play-off for two places at West Lancashire. The 21-year-old Royal Liverpool member shot a level-par 72 and can now dream of emulating the 2010 Links Trophy winner Matthew Southgate, who was T12th last year at Royal Troon.
Low round honours of the day went to Rhys Nevin-Wharton, whose six-under-par 66 at Fairhaven left him three shots clear of the field. Connor Fletcher also matched that score to top the Burhill scoring by two strokes.
Two former European Tour performers were rewarded for their day’s efforts. At Frilford Heath, 45-year-old Van Phillips – the 1999 Portuguese Open winner – finished in a tie for first on two-under-par 70 while Tom Whitehouse led the field alone on three-under-par 67 at Luffenham Heath.
But there was no fairy tale for Gary Evans, the Englishman who finished one shot outside the four-man play-off at Muirfield in 2002. After 10 years away from the Tour he tried to reignite the flame and, although he carded three birdies in four holes at one stage, he could only manage a six-over-par 78 at Burhill.
There was no luck either for Kenneth Ferrie who opened with a 68 to be tied fourth after 18 holes of the 2004 Open and was tied for the 54-hole lead with Phil Mickelson at the 2007 US Open before finishing T-11th. Alas, the 38-year-old’s major story won’t have another chapter written this July after he carded a 4-over-par 76 at Northumberland.
Keir McNicoll – another St Andrews Links Trophy winner – and Will Porter topped the scoring at Panmure with two-under-par 68s and neither of them will be frightened of an Open Championship examination. McNicoll is a PGA Professional based at Carnoustie Golf Links and Porter is a member at the course that last hosted The Open in 2007.
Final congratulations go to Scotland’s Ryan Campbell who survived a mammoth 10-man play-off for the final spot on offer at Frilford Heath.
The successful competitors now head to one of five 36-hole Final Qualifying events at Gailes Links, Hillside, Notts (Hollinwell), Royal Cinque Ports and Woburn on Tuesday 4 July when 15 places in the final field at Royal Birkdale will be available to a total of 360 golfers.
The full list of qualifiers:
Alwoodley: Torren Matthews, Richard Law, Ben Hutchinson, Luke Jackson, Jeremy Kavanagh, Oliver Young
Burhill: Connor Fletcher, Max Brackley, Peter Jackson, Abs Mawji, Richard Wallis, Xabier Gorospe, Chris Rodgers, Jacob Oakley
Fairhaven: Rhys Nevin-Wharton, Adam Stone, Andy Palmer, Jamie Howarth, Sandeep Grewal, Colin Maroney
Frilford Heath: Ricky Brackenbury, Van Phillips, Paul Robinson, Ross Langdon, Oliver Huggins, Narendra Yonjan, Fraser Moore, Ryan Campbell
Little Aston: Haydn Barron, Jacob McGoldrick, Liam Phipps, Edward Kent, Robert Burlison, Luke Burrows, Philip White, Henry Sheridan-Mills
Luffenham Heath: Tom Whitehouse, Michael Pask, Jack Gaunt, Kevin Crossland, Neil Chaudhuri
Northumberland: James Harper, James Simpson, Craig Goodfellow, Rob Spence
Panmure: Keir MacNicoll, Will Porter, Paul Shields, Francisco Pintor Smith
Remedy Oak: Martin Rohwer, Joshua Hilleard, Sean Whiffin, Sam Boyes, Matt Mumford, Haydn Reay, Jamie Clare
Sandy Lodge: Jack Hawksby, Rob Watson, Raymond Russell, Luke Goddard, James Ruebotham, Harry Casey, Crue Elliott, Robert Sutton
The Island: Brendan McCarroll, Gregory Leech, Rowan Lester, Jake Hapgood
West Lancashire: Timothy Ford, Joshua McMahon, Paul McFerran, Liam Hancock, Francis McGuirk, Sean Towndrow, Matthew Jordan, Daryl Ley
Wildernesse: Michael Saunders, Michael Lowe, Jack Dyer, Craig Sutherland, Thomas Munchmore, Chris Groucher, Daniel Brown, Paul Nessling