Matthew Ford credited his mental strength for his success after finishing with a flourish to secure his place at The 150th Open at St Andrews through Final Qualifying at Prince’s.
The 44-year-old Englishman topped the standings after 36 holes at the sun-soaked venue on the Kent coast, shooting rounds of 71 and 68 to finish two shots clear with a five-under total of 139.
But that score only told part of the story for Ford, who bounced back from a double bogey and two bogeys in four holes with two birdies and an eagle in his last six to surge up the leaderboard. And Ford explained how delighted he was with the way he responded to that tricky spell around the turn to confirm his Major championship debut at the Home of Golf in July.
“I eagled eight to get five-under early in the second round and then I hit a couple of poor drives which ended up costing me four shots, so five-under to one-under middle of the round,” he said.
“To finish as I did, I’m obviously very happy and to make eagle and a couple of birdies as I did coming home was great. I showed some good mental strength and golf in the end.
“I’m obviously delighted as I’ve never played in The Open before. It’s going to be a massive thrill to play in front of that crowd. I’ll need to find some accommodation now! The family will come up and I’m so excited. I’m looking forward to a great week.”
Ford’s compatriot Jamie Rutherford and Irishman Ronan Mullarney, a former R&A Foundation Scholar, also booked their places at St Andrews after finishing tied for second place on three-under.
Rutherford suffered back-to-back bogeys in the second round on his 11th and 12th holes but rallied with a birdie on the eighth - his penultimate hole - much to the 30-year-old’s delight.
“I played really nicely in both rounds. I had a little blip at the start of my back nine this afternoon, made a couple of sloppy bogeys that weren’t in bad positions,” said Rutherford.
“But I steadied my round and hit some really good shots and made important putts. It feels surreal to have made The Open, it’s not really sunk in and won’t for a few days.
“I’m super excited and can’t wait to get out there and have a crack at it. I’ve played it a few times as an amateur but it’s been a while since I played the Old Course. I can’t wait.”
Mullarney, who finished with birdies on the 15th and 17th, also has previous experience of St Andrews and said he hopes it will come in handy when he tees it up for The Open.
“I would have taken that score when I started,” he said. “It’s really tough out there and reminded me of my amateur days. I’m playing the EuroPro Tour and the courses are very different to this."
““I can’t wait for The Open. It’s going to be unbelievable. I was thinking about all those fans and I’m thrilled to have done it. I can’t wait to get to St Andrews.”” Jack Floydd
"It’s brilliant to have got the spot in The Open. I’ve played at St Andrews a number of times in the past including in The R&A Student Series and the St Andrews Links Trophy. There’s no excuses for not knowing the place! I can’t wait to be there.”
The last of the four qualification spots on offer at Prince’s went to Jack Floydd after a play-off between five players who finished tied on two-under, a group that included Matthew Southgate.
Southgate came agonisingly close to securing another Open appearance, having finished T12 at Royal Troon in 2016 and T6 at Royal Birkdale in 2017, but he missed a presentable birdie chance on the last.
And Floydd grasped his opportunity at the first play-off hole by making a brilliant birdie on the 10th, leaving Southgate, Nathan Kimsey, David Boote and Harry Boyle to wonder what might have been.
“I played very solid all day and putted really well, which was required today given the wind. Obviously when it came down to the play-off, I hit three great shots,” said Floydd.
“I bogeyed the 10th hole in both rounds but then come the play-off, I hit one of my best shots all day to 15 foot and holed it.
“I felt the pressure in the play-off but I’ve learnt from a couple of similar situations in the past that’s helped me with it and after working with coaches, it’s nice to see it pay off.
“I can’t wait for The Open. It’s going to be unbelievable. I was thinking about all those fans and I’m thrilled to have done it. I can’t wait to get to St Andrews.”