A much-coveted place at Royal Portrush for The 148th Open will be available for four players taking part in the SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club this week.
The latest event in The Open Qualifying Series and will see the top four players who finish in the top 12 or tied, and not otherwise exempt, book their place in Northern Ireland in July.
Jazz Janewattananond, Danthai Boonma, Sean Crocker and Lucas Herbert were the men who took advantage of the chance last year as they earned places to The 147th Open at Carnoustie.
This year’s field will be headlined by defending champion Sergio Garcia but there are also plenty of high-profile names competing who have not yet secured their Royal Portrush berth.Love lured by Open
One of the biggest names set to tee off at the Serapong Course will be 1997 PGA Championship winner Davis Love III, who has made no bones about his reason for competing.
“Anytime you can play in a tournament that could get you into The Open Championship, then you go. That was a big reason for me,” said the 54-year-old.
The American has not contested The Open since 2012 at Royal Lytham & St Annes but he clearly has a burning desire to make the field for the Claret Jug’s return to Antrim.
“There were other factors involved but playing for a spot in The Open put it over the top," said Love, who would be competing in his 25th Open should he qualify.
His previous best finish at The Open was back in 2003 when he was tied fourth, having had the overnight lead going into the weekend, two shots behind eventual Champion Golfer Ben Curtis.
Love has opted to play the event co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour and Asian Tour instead of competing in the season-opening event on the PGA Tour Champions in Hawaii.Kaufman back on track
Another American at a different stage of his career is also targeting exemption for Royal Portrush through the Singapore Open after a stop-start season last year.
Smylie Kaufman has been handed an invitation for the event after wrist and elbow injuries unfortunately derailed the 27-year-old’s 2018 campaign on the PGA Tour.
He last played at The Open in 2016 at Royal Troon – which saw Henrik Stenson claim the Claret Jug in a thrilling finale against Phil Mickelson – when he failed to make the weekend.
His best major finish came that same year at The Masters, where Kaufman made headlines by going into the final round a stroke behind leader and 2017 Champion Golfer Jordan Spieth.
Kaufman, who had one PGA Tour win to his name, eventually fell away to finish in a tie for 29th but feels his best golf is in front of him ahead of the Singapore Open.Sensation swings into town
All eyes will be on Ho-sung Choi when he takes to the first tee at the Serapong Course after his unusual swing took social media by storm at the Korea Open last June.
The 45-year-old Korean has been described as having the wackiest swing in golf but he put it to good use in November 2018 with victory in the Casino World Open.
A tenth-placed finish on the Japan Golf Tour money list secured his place in the Singapore Open and he could make his Open debut at Royal Portrush with a good week.
His action has been dubbed “The Fisherman Swing” and has won him many fans already but while he has only recently become a global sensation, Choi has been around for a while.
Choi’s been about the Asian golf scene since 2013 and won his first Japan Golf Tour title that year at the Indonesia PGA Championship. He is certainly going to be a big spectator draw this week.
Plant plotting return
Alfie Plant will be a name familiar to many after he came to prominence by winning the Silver Medal as the leading amateur at The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017.
It was the first start in a major for the now 26-year-old, who gained his place at The Open after winning the European Amateur in a playoff at Walton Heath Golf Club.
He took to The Open like a duck to water as he posted rounds of 71 and 73 to progress to the weekend – becoming the only amateur to make the cut in Southport.
Plant eventually finished T62 en route to picking up the Silver Medal and after receiving an invite to the Singapore Open, he will be hoping to secure his Open return as a professional.
He will be joined in the field by fellow Englishmen Paul Casey and Matthew Fitzpatrick, who – along with Garcia – are already exempt for The 147th Open at Royal Portrush.