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The Open Qualifying Series

Final Qualifying


Specialist Southgate seals emotional return to The Open

Matthew Southgate celebrates after coming through Final Qualifying for The 152nd Open

Matthew Southgate’s “heavy connection” to The Open was the catalyst for another sterling performance at Final Qualifying.

The Essex native came through 36 gruelling holes at Royal Cinque Ports on Monday to book his place at Royal Troon in a fortnight’s time.

He shot 71-67 amid some typically tough links conditions to head the field on a six-under total of 138, to seal his fifth successful stint at Final Qualifying.

Southgate said: “I don’t want to sound brash or arrogant, but I have such a big relationship with The Open. I have such a heavy connection to The Open because of my dad, who is sadly no longer with us anymore. He took me to every Open Championship from 1999 until I played my first Open in 2014.

Matthew Southgate poses with a pin flag for The 152nd Open

“It’s always lovely to be a part of. Every time I turn up for [Final] Qualifying I know I’ve got that in my armoury. I’m not on the 1st tee messing around; I’m here to get a spot because it means everything to me.

“Sometimes you can be very borderline with that emotion and it not coming off. But I feel like when I’m playing really well and I get the speed of the greens, that extra bit of pump in the heart is all it takes.”

Southgate only had three bogeys all day, with two of them coming at the par-4 12th.

He was one-under through his first 18 before stepping up the pace in the afternoon, finding seven birdies.

He added: “Thirty-six holes is a long day. Because it’s all in one day it makes it sound like a sprint. But it really isn’t. It’s a long day. Timing that run to the line is crucial.”

Just behind Southgate on the Cinque Ports leaderboard was Elvis Smylie [below] on three-under-par. In contrast to Southgate, the Australian enjoyed a fruitful morning, posting a five-under tally which only amateur Matt Gauntlett was able to match.

Elvis Smylie in action during FInal Qualifying

Three front-nine bogeys on his second round threatened to halt his charge but the 22-year-old, whose mum Liz is a two-time Wimbledon doubles champion, recovered well down the stretch to book a first appearance at The Open.

Smylie said: “Just saying that I’ve qualified for The Open gives me goosebumps. The last time I went to The Open was at Troon in 2016, when I was 14-years-old. Going there as a spectator eight years ago and now going back as a competitor… I don’t know what to say. I just can’t wait for the experience.

“I’ve already FaceTimed my dad who’s back in Australia and he said he’s going to book a flight over. My mum is already over here commentating on Wimbledon so everyone’s going to come and watch me at Troon. I’m very excited.”

The other two Final Qualifying places went to Spanish duo Jaime Montojo and Luis Masaveu, who both hail from Royal Club La Moralega in Madrid.

Spanish duo Jaime Montojo (left) and Luis Masaveu celebrate after qualifying for The 152nd Open

Like Smylie, Montojo – with his mum caddying – signed for a three-under 141. After clinching a spot at Royal Troon, Montojo then went to support his club mate Masaveu in a three-man play-off with Jamie Rutherford and Branden Grace.

All three parred the first extra hole before Masaveu produced a brilliant 20ft birdie putt, which neither Rutherford nor Grace – the man who, in 2017, shot the lowest round in Open history – were able to match.

Masaveu, who was forced to play with an old set of clubs after his current set were lost in Copenhagen two weeks ago, then embraced his dad, and caddie, Rafa in truly heartwarming scenes.

“It is amazing,” said Rafa.

The Open will get under way on Thursday 18 July and it will be Royal Troon’s tenth staging of golf’s original major.

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