Americans Steve Stricker, Brian Gay and Russell Henley, and Korea’s Seung-Yul Noh have qualified for The 145th Open at Royal Troon after today’s final round of the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee.
The tournament was the sixth event in The Open Qualifying Series, which gives players the opportunity to qualify for golf’s most international major championship at leading Tour events around the world.
The four players will now join the world’s best golfers in pursuit of the Claret Jug and the title of Champion Golfer of the Year when The Open returns to the famous Ayrshire links for the ninth time from 14-17 July, 2016.
Stricker, whose best performance in The Open is tied for seventh at Royal Birkdale in 2008, carded a final round 67 to finish in joint second place with 2013 Champion Golfer of the Year Phil Mickelson, and Brooks Koepka, who has already qualified for The Open after finishing in the top-10 in the 144th Open at St Andrews in 2015.
‘It was fun getting in the mix again’, said Stricker. ‘I was a little bit nervous, but I handled it well and enjoyed the moment. I played well today and hit a lot of good shots. I hit a lot of good putts that didn’t go in and I wish I could’ve got a few of those to fall early on. All in all, a really good week and I’m excited about how I played.’
The former Ryder Cup player picked up three birdies on the back nine to reach 10-under-par for the tournament, three shots behind winner Daniel Berger, who maintained his overnight lead to win his first PGA Tour event. Berger has already qualified for The Open after finishing in the Top 30 leading qualifiers for the Tour Championship in 2015.
A final round 66 from Gay propelled the 2009 FedEx St Jude Classic winner into sixth place on eight-under-par and he qualified for The Open for a fourth time, having played in 2001, 2009 and 2010.
‘It’s great to have a good week here and obviously to get into the top four you have to play really well to qualify so it’s good on both ends’, said Gay.
‘I’ve won here before and I love the golf course, so I was really focusing on having a good week, knowing that if I did that The Open would take care of itself.’
‘I haven’t played a ton of links golf, I’ve played in a few Opens but I haven’t been to Troon. It’s definitely different for us. It’s something that’s pretty cool but it can be difficult to get over there and figure it out in just a few days.’
A birdie on the 16th hole secured Henley’s place at The Open, the two-time PGA Tour winner finishing tied for seventh place on seven-under-par with Noh. The 27-year-old has played The Open for the last three years and his best performance was tied 20th at St Andrews in 2015.
‘It’s exciting. My first three years on Tour I think I missed one WGC event and I was in all the majors, this year I wasn’t in the Masters or in the US Open so I’m going the other direction and it’s nice to get into The Open’, said Henley
‘I love going over there, it’s a lot of fun to go play a little bit different type of golf than we’re used to and just be challenged. I love the opportunity, I’m excited and I hope I can go over there and play well again.’
Former Korean Amateur Champion Noh qualified for his third appearance in The Open, having played in 2010 at St Andrews and 2011 at Royal St George’s. The Zurich Classic of New Orleans champion recovered from a double bogey on the 12th to pick up two shots in the final three holes to secure his place in the starting field at Royal Troon.
‘This is my first top-ten this year and I’m so happy with that, especially to make The Open Championship. It’s been very special for me this week’, said Noh.
‘I used to play a lot in England and Scotland and when I came to the States a few years ago I really missed playing Europe. I really can’t wait to get back there.’
The Open Qualifying Series continues at the Quicken Loans National from 23-26 June at Congressional Country Club where four places in The Open will be on offer.