The Open Qualifying Series is up and running, as three men booked their place at Royal Portrush at the Emirates Australian Open.
Taking place at The Lakes in Sydney – Abraham Ancer, Dimitrios Papadatos and Jake McLeod finished as the top three to qualify for The 148th Open next July.
But who are the three men who will be teeing it up in Royal Portrush? We will be profiling each of the qualifiers – starting with 27-year-old tournament winner Ancer.Mexico’s finest
Born in Texas but raised in Reynosa, Mexico, Ancer holds dual American-Mexican citizenship – competing under the flag of the latter due to his parents both being natives of the country.
He admits he got hooked on golf as the first sport he played and early memories of meeting three-time Champion Golfer Jack Nicklaus only increased his love of the sport.
A storied career on the US college circuit followed, first in a single year at Odessa College – where he was named a first-team All-American and finished joint-second in the Junior College National Golf Championship – before he transferred and graduated from the University of Oklahoma.
A couple of productive years on the Web.com Tour, including victory at the Nova Scotia Open in 2015, saw him earn a PGA Tour card in 2016 and although he briefly dropped back down to the second-level tour, he returned with a bang in time for the 2017-18 campaign.
If his first season on the PGA Tour had been a steep learning curve, Ancer was a model of consistency upon his return to the elite levels of golf.
The Mexican sensation recorded finishes of ninth at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, eighth at the Houston Open, fifth at the RBC Canadian Open and seventh at the Dell Technologies Championship.
But it was his performance at the Quicken Loans National that was his most impressive, and important, display of the year.
A third-round 62 catapulted him into a share of the lead with a certain Francesco Molinari and although he slipped to joint-fourth with three-time Champion Golfer Tiger Woods by the conclusion of Sunday, his first appearance at a major was secure, with the event being part of The Open Qualifying Series.
He was now Carnoustie bound and eager to tackle the Scottish links.
“It's a dream come true playing The Open,” said Ancer at the time.
“I've always watched it since I was a little kid. I don't even mind playing in the wind!”
And while he enjoyed his experience at The 147th Open, Carnoustie certainly taught him a lesson – as rounds of 71 and 78 saw Ancer miss the cut.
Despite the missed cut, Ancer had a taste of The Open that he was determined to replicate and he secured a second qualification at the first time of asking by winning the Australian Open.
He surged to the top of the leaderboard with a blistering seven-under-par 65 on Saturday and turned that into a comfortable five-stroke victory on Sunday to join legendary names, such as his childhood hero Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, on the Stonehaven Cup.
Now he can plan a trip to Portrush next summer and the 27-year-old is counting down the days.
“I’m extremely excited to be going to Royal Portrush,” he said. “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.
“I’m extremely happy to have qualified through the Australian Open.
“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.
“I tried to soak it all in at Carnoustie last year – I got a pretty tough wave but I got the gull experience of Carnoustie and it taught me a lot of things.”
Whether he can tame Portrush or the links bites back as Carnoustie did, Ancer has at least ensured his Open dream will become a reality for a second time.