Colin Montgomerie survived an agonising wait to secure a place in The 145th Open at Royal Troon in Final Qualifying at Gailes Links today while Paul Dunne completed a notable hat-trick of victories at Woburn.
Matthew Southgate qualified from Royal Cinque Ports a year after undergoing treatment for testicular cancer.
After carding rounds of 66 and 71 at Gailes Links for a five-under-par total, Montgomerie had to wait two hours before learning that he had progressed from the Ayrshire venue through The Open Qualifying Series along with Swede Oskar Arvidsson and Spaniard Scott Fernandez. The 53-year-old year Scot is a member at Royal Troon, where his father James was the secretary, and will play in golf’s oldest Championship for the first time since his 21st consecutive appearance in 2010.
Arvidsson shrugged off his lowly world ranking of 1,418th to win the Gailes Links qualifier by four shots with a 10-under-par 132 total after rounds of 64 and 68. The 25-year-old ignited his day to remember on the Ayrshire coast by rolling in a 25-foot eagle putt at the first and dropped only one stroke all day. Fernandez, a 23-year-old from Granada with a mum who hails from Kidderminster, qualified at the first attempt on six-under-par and revealed his ambition to play in The Open had been fuelled by watching The Open at Royal Troon in 1989 on video.
Ireland’s Dunne, the 23-year-old from Greystones, carded a flawless four-under-par 68 in the morning and then added a 67 in the afternoon to post a nine-under-par total of 135 on the Marquess course at Woburn. Dunne will now have the chance to build on his fine performance at The Open last year when he shared the 54-hole lead before closing with a 78 to drop into a tie for 30th place, nine shots behind winner Zach Johnson.
Dunne’s nearest challenger was his playing partner Ryan Evans who matched the Irishman’s 68 in the morning and then survived a double bogey on the 16th in the afternoon to card another 68 and finish on 136. The final place went to European Tour veteran Robert Rock who finished tied-seventh in The Open at St Andrews in 2010. Rock closed with a fine six-under-par 66 and then beat Aaron Rai with a par on the first hole of a play-off after the Challenge Tour player three-putted from the front edge of the green.
Southgate won the Royal Cinque Ports qualifier on six-under-par, having also won at Sunningdale two years ago before missing the cut on his debut in The Open at Royal Liverpool. Last year during the week of The Open at St Andrews he underwent cancer surgery. He recovered to regain his European Tour card at the Qualifying School then, in May, was in tears at the Irish Open after finishing fourth, his best ever result on the circuit. After a morning 70 at Deal, he eagled the third hole in the afternoon as he went out in 31. Then he came home in level par in the worst of the wind on the fearsome back nine for a 66, the lowest second-round score by three shots.
Also qualifying at Deal, three strokes behind on three-under-par, were England’s James Heath and New Zealand’s Steven Alker. Heath, following his victory in the Scottish Hydro Challenge, had an eventful second-round of 70. Four birdies and an eagle put him at eight under par after seven holes but three bogeys and two double bogeys left him one under with three to play. The former Faldo Junior Series winner rallied with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes to book a place in his first Major Championship. Alker, who took a break from the Web.com Tour in America to try to qualify, had rounds of 68 and 72 to play in The Open for a fourth time and a first appearance since finishing in the top-20 at Royal Lytham & St Annes four years ago.
Jack Senior shot 69-70 to lead the qualifiers at Hillside on five-under-par 139, leaving five players to play-off for the two remaining places. The Challenge Tour player from Heysham in Lancashire had a rollercoaster day, with two double bogeys on the short 10th and eagle and ten birdies in his two rounds. Starting at the 10th in the morning he was out in 38 and reduced the front nine to 31on the way home. Then in the afternoon it was a total reversal. He was seven strokes worse than in the morning over the front nine and six strokes better on the back nine.
Hull amateur Steven Robins was first to lose out in the play-off with a bogey at the first, then Boston professional Dave Coupland claimed the first place with a birdie at the second play-off hole, the ninth. It will be the second time the 30-year-old has played in The Open having led the qualifiers as an amateur at Monifieth for the The Open at Carnoustie in 2007. Paul Howard, a 25-year-old from Southport and Ainsdale, took the third and final play-off spot at the fourth extra hole sinking a birdie putt from seven feet to end the hopes of Scott Arnold and Jay Taylor.