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The Open Qualifying Series

Kirk and Gooch book 150th Open spots


Duo qualify at Bay Hill

Chris Kirk with the Claret Jug

Chris Kirk and Talor Gooch qualified for The 150th Open at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard as Scottie Scheffler claimed a hard-fought victory at Bay Hill.

Three spots at St Andrews were on offer to the highest-placed finishers inside the top 10 who were not already exempt.

However, Kirk and Gooch, who tied for fifth and seventh respectively, were the only players seeking qualification to finish high enough on the leaderboard, with each of the remaining men in the top 10 having already booked their spots in The 150th Open.

Scheffler ultimately coped best with a demanding Bay Hill layout as he closed with an even-par 72 to finish on five under and pip Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Billy Horschel by one.

Kirk was firmly in contention for victory when he made back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th to reach five under. Bogeys followed at the next two holes, but he could still be satisfied with a closing 72 that put him two behind Scheffler and comfortably secured a place at St Andrews.

He will now make his fourth appearance at The Open, with his best finish to date a tie for 19th at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

"This will be my first Open at St Andrews and I am pumped. I can't wait," said a delighted Kirk, who missed the most recent Open at the Old Course through injury.

"In 2015 I was exempt from The Open there and I hurt my hand," he continued. "It was devastating for me not to be able to go. It is something I definitely had in my sights this year as a big goal, to try to make it over. It feels amazing to have the opportunity. It will be incredible.

"I remember having a good week (at Hoylake) in 2014. Every time I have been over there I just love the style of golf that is required at The Open. I can't get enough of it."

Gooch, who made his Open debut at Royal St George’s last year and tied for 33rd, showed great character to seal an instant return to golf’s original Championship.

Talor Gooch with the Claret Jug

Having begun the final round tied for the lead with Horschel at seven under, Gooch fell back to level par courtesy of a front-nine 43.

However, he fought back superbly on the inward nine, coming home in two under without any dropped shots to share seventh and ensure he will join Kirk at the Home of Golf in July.

"It's just enormous with golf. I mean, you grew up watching the Opens at St Andrews," said Gooch. "You just think of the (Swilcan) Bridge, you think of everything it means.

"I just remember Jack (Nicklaus) the last time he was playing and he stood on the bridge on 18 and gave a farewell wave. Obviously, I think of when Tiger (Woods) won there. The last hole is so iconic.

"It's just going to be special and I'm excited."

Keegan Bradley was a shot away from qualifying after bogeying the 18th to finish tied-11th, while a double-bogey seven at 16 proved costly for Graeme McDowell as the Northern Irishman also came agonisingly close to claiming an Open berth.

The next events in The Open Qualifying Series take place from 26-29 May, with four places available at the Mizuno Open and three at the Dutch Open.

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