One last hurdle stands in the way of hopefuls with ambitions of teeing it up at Carnoustie for The 147th Open as they compete for the 12 places on offer at Final Qualifying.
Three qualifying spots will be available at four courses across the UK on Tuesday 3 July, with Notts (Hollinwell), Prince’s, St Annes Old Links and The Renaissance on hosting duties.Players who came through the 13 Regional Qualifying events will be joined by leading players without exemption for The Open for a 36-hole shootout at each course. Here’s the lowdown on what awaits those golfers who want to keep their dream of challenging for the Claret Jug alive, including a look at the four qualifying sites.
What is Final Qualifying?
Only 156 players will have a chance to contest The 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, with the field largely consisting of the world’s leading players. Past winners, such as last year’s Champion Golfer of the Year Jordan Spieth, earn automatic exemption – as does the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking. But as its name clearly states, the oldest and most prestigious major in golf also offers up the opportunity for those not in the elite bracket to make the start list. Final Qualifying is the last stage of the process for non-Tour pros or amateurs with a handicap of scratch or better, along with players who did not meet the exemption criteria.
The Final Qualifying courses
Four of the finest venues in Britain will provide the setting for all the drama that will inevitably be thrown up by Final Qualifying for The Open. Notts (Hollinwell), a renowned heathland course in the rolling hills of north Nottinghamshire, will be hosting the 36-hole event for the second year running after making its debut last year. It has been described by three-time Champion Golfer of the Year Nick Faldo as “not for those with a faint heart” and should provide perfect preparation for Carnoustie for those who pass the test.
The challenge is not likely to be any easier for qualifiers at St Annes Old Links, which is considered one of the best championship links on England’s north-west coast. St Annes previously held Final Qualifying in 2012 - when The Open was held at nearby Royal Lytham & St Annes - and golfers will need to brace themselves once again for high winds.
Located adjacent to Royal St George’s in Kent, Prince’s Golf Club also has a long association with The Open as one of only a select few courses to have hosted the major. Players will follow in the footsteps of 1932 Champion Golfer of the Year Gene Sarazen, who set a new scoring record to lift the Claret Jug, as they attempt to seal their place at Carnoustie.
Meanwhile, a completely new challenge awaits those competing at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian, which will host Final Qualifying for the first time. The links course, which was designed by esteemed American architect Tom Doak in 2006, sits directly adjacent to 16-time Open Championship venue Muirfield.
Ones to watch
Two-time US Open winner Retief Goosen will also tee it up at Prince’s alongside Alfie Plant, who was the Silver Medal-winning leading amateur at The 146th Open. Elsewhere, double European Tour winner Robert Rock will be in the field at Notts (Hollinwell) with former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson as they set their sights on Carnoustie.
They will be joined by Laurie Canter, who was one of three qualifiers at Notts last year before going on to make the cut and finish joint 37th at Royal Birkdale. Two-time Walker Cup player Stiggy Hodgson will be in action at St Annes Old Links, after setting a new course record at Alwoodley Golf Club as he came through Regional Qualifying with flying colours.
Hodgson, who signed off on a seven-under 64 that featured nine birdies and two bogeys. Craig Lawrie, son of former Champion Golfer of the Year Paul Lawrie, will also be looking to build on his performance in Regional Qualifying at The Renaissance Club.