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The 151st Open

Debutants preview


Can someone follow in Collin Morikawa's footsteps at Royal Liverpool?

Alex Fitzpatrick practising with brother Matt

Two years ago, Collin Morikawa became only the fifth man since World War II to lift the Claret Jug at the first time of asking.

The American followed in the footsteps of all-time greats Ben Hogan and Tom Watson, and shock winners Tony Lema and Ben Curtis. 

At The 151st Open, 41 men will be hoping to match Morikawa’s exploits having come through a range of different paths to the opening hole at Royal Liverpool. 

From siblings of major winners to former mortgage advisors, not to mention a couple of Tigers (Tiger Christiansen and Taiga Semikawa), the debutant field is full of fun stories. 

Here are some of the best: 

Alex Fitzpatrick: Should he need advice on how to prepare for a major, Alex Fitzpatrick will not have to look far, with elder brother Matt – the 2022 US Open champion – now firmly established in the world’s top ten. 

The younger Fitzpatrick spent four years across the Atlantic playing college golf at Wake Forest University in the North Carolina – previously attended by 2011 Champion Golfer Darren Clarke and the late, great Arnold Palmer, who lifted the Claret Jug in 1961 and 1962. 

Fitzpatrick secured his place at Royal Liverpool through Final Qualifying. 

Ben Griffin had all but given up on professional golf two years ago

Ben Griffin: This time two years ago, Ben Griffin was more likely to be offering you a mortgage than dreaming of lifting the Claret Jug. Having assumed his golfing ambitions would not be realised, Griffin got a desk job working as a loan officer, financing homes and residential mortgages.

However a friend of Griffin’s trainer stepped in to provide sponsorship, with Griffin coming through the Final Stage of Q-School and eventually earning a PGA Tour card for the 2022-23 season. After an unlikely journey, he has now worked his way to Royal Liverpool through The Open Qualifying Series.

Taylor Moore won the Valspar Championship

Taylor Moore: Turn back the clock four years and Taylor Moore was headed to hospital where it was discovered that he had a right lung which was 50 percent collapsed and required surgery.

That kept him sidelined for months but after patiently working his way back to fitness and onto the course, Moore claimed a first title on the PGA Tour with his Valspar Championship success in March, and will now make his Open debut thanks to being ranked number 48 in the world.

Jose Luis Ballester Barrio won the European Amateur

Jose Luis Ballester Barrio: Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia are just two of the illustrious winners of the European Amateur Championship, with Spain’s Jose Luis Ballester Barrio joining that elite group in Estonia last month.

With a surname which inevitably forces a double take for all golf lovers, Ballester Barrio became the first man since a 15-year-old Garcia won the title back in 1995, earning his spot at Royal Liverpool in the process.

Taichi Kho is the first Hong Kong golfer to play at the Open

Taichi Kho: A victory at the World City Championship on the Asian Tour was enough for Taichi Kho to make history as the first Hong Kong-born golfer to qualify for The Open. 

Kho won by two shots at his home club – the Hong Kong Golf Club – overcoming the nerves to become the first Hong Kong golfer to win on the Asian Tour. 

Christo Lamprecht: Like Ballester Barrio, Christo Lamprecht has earned his spot at Royal Liverpool for his amateur exploits, winning The Amateur Championship at Hillside, about an hour up the road from Hoylake. 

Now he will look to follow in the footsteps of Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia to become the third winner of The Amateur Championship to add major glory. 

Graeme Robertson came through Final Qualifying at Dundonald Links

Graeme Robertson: It was only at the age of 33 that Graeme Robertson decided to give professional golf a go, but two years on, it was certainly the right call as he prepares to tee off at Royal Liverpool. 

Robertson came through the most dramatic Final Qualifying event of all, sinking a putt of nearly 40 feet on the fifth hole of a sudden death play-off to grab the final spot at the Dundonald Links. 

Gunner Wiebe qualified for The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool

Gunner Wiebe qualified for The Open via his performance in the Betfred British Masters

Gunner Wiebe is another Hoylake debutant and his maiden appearance has extra significance as Royal Liverpool was the venue for his dad Mark’s final appearance in The Open.

He said: “Sometimes it’s funny. You think you can’t write a really good script and then life gives you a proper script. It’s pretty incredible.

“I would wake up at 6am to watch The Open. That was what we did back at home. It would finish at 2pm or 2:30pm and we’d go straight to the course and try to hit shots we saw on TV.

“I watched my dad play links golf. We just don’t have it in the States and maybe that’s part of the appeal, that it’s so novel.

“The Claret Jug is probably the prettiest trophy in the whole of sports.”

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