Get to know The Open's first qualified trio for 2019
The first spots at The 148th Open at Royal Portrush have already been confirmed.
This past weekend Down Under, Abraham Ancer, Dimitrios Papadatos and Jake McLeod booked their passage to Northern Ireland.
Ancer claimed a dominant victory in the Australian Open – inscribing his name on a trophy that includes some of the greatest in the game like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and more recent Champion Golfers of the Year Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
Two Aussie natives in Papadatos and McLeod joined the Mexican winner in securing their berths at The Open via The Open Qualifying Series Australia.
And here we take a closer look at the three men who are already dreaming of the Claret Jug next year in Northern Ireland.
ABRAHAM COMES OF AGE
Mexico has had its golfing greats before – Lorena Ochoa springs to mind.
But they might just have uncovered the next great male star from their country – certainly if this display is anything to go by.
The 27-year-old may only stand 5ft 7in, but he punches well above his weight and his five-shot victory was the biggest margin since Spieth in 2014.
A keen hunter and racing car driver, Ancer’s climb into the top 100 in the world continues unabated.
And the former collegiate star at Odessa Junior College and then the University of Oklahoma is not a total unknown to Open fans.
He did compete at Carnoustie this year – his maiden major outing – after an impressive fourth-place at the Quickens Loan National secured him a spot.
But he found another level in Australia – his 65 in windy conditions on day three was a class above the field and when he chipped in for birdie at the fourth on Sunday – the job was done.
Victory was Ancer’s second title as a pro, and he can now allow himself to dream of his tee time at Portrush and an improvement on his missed cut at Carnoustie.
Congratulations to Abraham Ancer, Dimitrios Papadatos and Jake McLeod on qualifying for The 148th Open at The Open Qualifying Series Australia. See you at Royal Portrush. pic.twitter.com/qGRji75zP6— The Open (@TheOpen) November 18, 2018
“I’m extremely excited to be going to Royal Portrush. I got a taste of The Open at Carnoustie earlier this year and it’s a Championship I want to come back to every single year,” he said.
“I’ve never been to Northern Ireland before so I’m really looking forward to that. It’s going to be incredible. I will try and get over there to play some links golf now that I’m in. It would be great to play an event on links before The Open."
With Ancer out in front, there was a race within a race this weekend for the other two Portrush spots.
At one stage, only four shots separated 24 players who wanted to secure it but it was Dimitrios Padadatos that emerged in second place.
The 27-year-old has had a tough time of it in recent weeks – his pursuit of a 2019 European Tour card was hit hard by disqualification.
But he bounced back in spectacular fashion here in front of a home crowd, claiming the second qualifying spot for his maiden major with an 11-under total of 277.
Three-times a winner on the PGA Australasia Tour, Papadatos is a shotmaker and his seven birdies on Sunday proved that.
The Australian said: “I’m ecstatic to have qualified for The Open. I went out to put a good score together today and to have earned a qualifying spot puts the icing on the cake.
“It’s going to be awesome to play in my first major and I can’t wait to get over to Northern Ireland. I like playing over there and you get some very testing golf.
“To get to play with the world’s best players is going to be a great experience. I dreamt about playing in The Open growing up so to get there is amazing.”
JAKE’S A GREAT
Meanwhile it has been quite a fortnight for Jake McLeod.
The man bun-sporting Aussie followed up his win in the NSW open at Twin Creeks with a fine final round on Sunday to secure third and the final Open spot.
Not that he knew about it at the time!
View this post on Instagram
A surreal moment winning my first PGA tour Australasia title at the AV Jennings NSW open. Thank you to @enzen_global, @titleist_anz for your support of me, @golfnsw and the sponsors of the NSW open for providing a great tournament, and John for caddying. Thank you all for your kind messages, thoughts and support - it hasn’t gone unnoticed and I appreciate it so much. Now it’s time to get ready for the Australian Open.
After a week that also saw him penalised for waiting too long for a birdie putt to drop on the fourth hole on Saturday – McLeod had quite the week.
But the eight birdies did the job on Sunday and his first-ever major could be in Northern Ireland in July.
“I’m absolutely stoked right now, to qualify for The Open is unreal. It’s going to be special to play in my first major championship, especially in Northern Ireland as I’ve never been there before. I can’t wait to get there.
“I’ve wanted to play in majors like The Open ever since I was a little kid and for this to be my first appearance, it’s going to be so special. I’m nervous already. I played a bit of links golf at the Dunhill Championship and did ok, so yes, can’t wait.”