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The 148th Open
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Who is Shaun Norris? Second-place finisher on the Japan Tour Official Money List
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Two more qualifying spots for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush were snapped up at the weekend following the conclusion of the Japan Golf Tour as the field continues to take shape.

The top two players on the Official Money List both earned exemption for their chance at Claret Jug glory next July, with Shugo Imahira and Shaun Norris both rewarded for brilliant seasons.

Imahira claimed the first prize after a season which included no fewer than 14 top-ten finishes, including his second tour win, while Norris pushed him all the way before falling just short.

But who are the two men who will be teeing it up in Antrim? In the latest of our profiles on each of the qualifiers, here’s everything you need to know about runner-up Norris.

A man of many talents

Like so many sports stars, Norris showed plenty of potential in more than just his chosen discipline before turning professional in 2002 – also shining at rugby and cricket.

The South African started out on the Sunshine Tour and had to be patient for silverware, claiming the inaugural Africa Open in 2008 before it became part of the European Tour.

A second title followed three years later when Norris staged a Sunday comeback to clinch the Nashua Masters, shooting a final-round 65 to beat Tyrone Mordt by one shot.

Norris credited his success to a putter change made the week before at the BMG Classic, where he tied for third, admitting it was an “easy decision” to stick with the long putter.

The 36-year-old also made his European Tour debut in 2011 after graduating from qualifying school, before earning his Asian Tour card via the same route in 2015.

Asian Tour success

Having secured his place on tour by finishing tied 12th at qualifying school in Thailand, Norris went on to cap a dream rookie season by winning the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship.

Once again, it took another Sunday surge from Norris to finish top of the pile as he pipped overnight leader Miguel Tabuena by two shots after overcoming a three-shot deficit.

Norris notched five birdies in his opening seven holes and finished with a four-under 68 for a winning total of 12-under in the weather-shortened event in Taipei.

A second season on tour then started with a bang as he triumphed at the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open, which was co-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour, by four shots over Park Jun-Won.

His career continued to flourish in Asia in 2017, where he won the Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup Shishido Hills and finished second at the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup.

Open debut to remember

That victory at Shishido Hills earned Norris his major championship debut, with his closing-round 64 lifting him to second on the money list on the day the top two received Open exemptions.

Norris had just missed out on securing his berth at Royal Birkdale the week before after finishing sixth at the Gate Way to The Open Mizuno Open, when there were four spots on offer.

 

 

And while many struggle to cope with the pressure of competing at the most prestigious major for the first time, Norris appeared to show no nerves as he impressed from day one at The 146th Open

Steady rounds of 71 and 74 in Southport saw him safely progress to weekend, before he shot the round of his life on Saturday to briefly claim the clubhouse lead.

His bogey-free 65 tied for the low round of the tournament as he stormed into a tie for 10th, but he was unable to sustain his form on Sunday as a final-round 76 dropped him down to T62.

Tiger treat on Open return

Norris split his time between multiple tours in 2018 and he was ultimately one of the last players to take up a place at Carnoustie as part of The Open Qualifying Series.

Two closing birdies lifted him into a tie for third place at the Joburg Open in 2017 and because his world ranking was higher than Tapio Pulkkanen, he booked his spot at The 147th Open.

It would turn out to be another memorable occasion for Norris as he once again made the cut with rounds of 74 and 68 to set up a Saturday pairing with three-time Champion Golfer Tiger Woods.

He carded a respectable two-under 69 alongside the former world number one and admitted afterwards: “It’s like playing with a mythical creature. It doesn’t feel real.”

Norris went on to better his previous best major finish by one place, before ensuring he will complete a hat-trick of Open appearances at Royal Portrush by coming second on the Japan Golf Tour Official Money List, having won he Heiwa PGM Championship in November.