Another three men booked their spots at The 148th Open this weekend, as Charl Schwartzel, Romain Langasque and Oliver Wilson all sealed a place at Royal Portrush next summer.
They did so by excelling in the latest event of The Open Qualifying Series – The South African Open – where they were the top three finishers not already exempt for next year’s Open.
And we’ve given you a rundown of exactly how the talented trio thrived in Johannesburg to make their Open dream a reality.
The Romain Empire
Champion Golfer of the Year from 2010 Louis Oosthuizen recorded an emotional victory at his home event – shooting 18-under to triumph for the first time by six strokes.
His nearest challenger was Frenchman Langasque, who was consistent through three rounds before firing on all cylinders come Sunday.
Scores of 69, 68 and 69 had the 23-year-old in a tie for 13th, on seven-under, heading into the final 18 before a closing 66 booked a second Open appearance, and a first as a professional.
Having won the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie in 2015, Langasque sealed a spot in that year’s Open at St Andrews, where he made the cut and ended in a tie for 65th.
Having earned a European Tour card by coming through Q-School just last month, he is now counting down the days until Portrush.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “All week long I was focused on making it a good week and I didn’t think about a place at The Open.
“But I played really nicely on Sunday and the conditions were really tough, but I just stayed focused and now I’ve qualified. I’m really happy.
“I think Portrush will be a totally different course. It was good to play in St Andrews for my first Open because it's quite wide and I could play left if I couldn’t quite feel the shot.
“Portrush is not quite the same, the course is narrower but I think I’m ready to play these kind of events as a pro. I’m going to be patient and not put too much pressure on myself and do my best and enjoy myself over there.”
A Master heading to Northern Ireland
If Langasque is at the start of his career, Schwartzel has already accomplished plenty as a professional – with the highlight undoubtedly being his Masters triumph back in 2011.
The South African has appeared in 14 Opens and Royal Portrush will mark his 11th in a row when he tees off next summer, after finishing tied third in Johannesburg.
Schwartzel actually led the way following a scintillating second-round 63, which meant a pair of relatively disappointing one-over-par 72s on both weekend days didn’t cost him a spot at the Dunluce links.
A tricky 2018 saw him drop from 33rd to 85th in the world rankings but with a bucketload of experience, the 34-year-old is always a threat to contend and is looking forward to continuing his Open streak.“It’s a nice bonus,” said Schwartzel, whose best Open finish was tied-seventh in 2014. “I was hoping to do better in this tournament but I’m still happy that I get to play The Open in Northern Ireland which will be really nice.
“Watching Ernie [Els]’s last win and when Tiger won at Hoylake are two of my best memories of The Open and obviously when my good friend Louis [Oosthuizen] won at St Andrews.
“It’s special. There’s so much history behind it and it would be nice to have my name on the trophy one day.”
Wilson relishing a return
Wilson beat Phil Mickelson at the 2008 Ryder Cup and was once seen as a potential major champion before a dramatic fall down the golfing ladder.
He had slipped to 1,966th in the world last summer when he came through Final Qualifying to reach a first Open in eight years.
That he missed the cut at Carnoustie almost didn’t matter, given his journey to get there, and the veteran Englishman is rejuvenated, with a second consecutive appearance at golf’s oldest major now beckoning.
He’s up to 273 in the world and it was by virtue of having a higher ranking than Thomas Aiken (294) and Bryce Easton (651), who also finished on ten-under in Johannesburg, that he earned the final qualifying spot.
The 38-year-old recovered from an opening-round 73 to shoot 66, 68 and then a final-day 67 to reach -10 and now he can relish having a Portrush place signed, sealed and delivered with months to spare.
“I’m delighted,” he said. “I was pleased to sneak in and get this spot because I bogeyed the last hole and I thought it was going to cost me the spot.
“This is quite big to know that you’re in The Open at this stage of the year. It’s great that I can have something that I’m really looking forward to. I managed to get in last year and it’s where you want to be. You never want to miss The Open.
“The Open is the best one there is. Coming back and seeing what is was like at Carnoustie, the infrastructure there and knowing the eyes of the whole world are on the tournament.
“You want to be there, everything about it and the way that it was run was fantastic. To qualify and get in there is nice.”