In sunny, but windy conditions on the Kent coast, Matt Ford qualified for The Open to make his major championship debut after he led the qualifiers at Prince’s on a five-under-par total of 139.
The 44-year-old from Maidstone started off with a steady round of 71 before experiencing a rollercoaster second round in which he mixed two eagles and three birdies with a double bogey and two bogeys. Nevertheless, a four-under-par 68 led to Ford finishing two shots clear at the top of the leaderboard ahead of compatriot Jamie Rutherford and Irishman Ronan Mullarney, a former R&A Foundation Scholar, who tied for second on three-under-par. Both players matched each other with rounds of 70 and 71.
A play-off decided the final qualifying place as Matthew Southgate’s birdie putt from five feet slipped agonisingly past the hole on the last to leave five players level on two-under-par. Jack Floydd went on to prevail among the group of hopefuls in sudden death with a birdie at the first play-off hole.
Speaking about his achievement, Ford said: “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 at the Home of Golf. 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.”
St Annes Old Links
DP World Tour winner Armitage and Bairstow, runner-up in The Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes to South African Aldrich Potgieter two weeks ago, topped the standings on an eight-under-par total of 136 at St Annes Old Links.
Armitage carded two rounds of 68 to secure his third appearance in The Open, while it was a case of history repeating itself for English amateur Bairstow who earned his place through Final Qualifying at the same venue for the second year running.
They will be joined by Matthew Jordan who finished one stroke behind on a seven-under-par total of 137. The Royal Liverpool golfer, who won the St Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur, put together rounds of 69 and 68 to earn his first ever appearance in The Open and a major championship debut next month.
The fourth qualifying place at St Annes Old Links was determined by a two-way play-off between John Perry and Daniel Kay who tied for fourth place on six-under-par. The pair were separated by Parry’s par at the second play-off hole as the Scot could only manage double bogey.
At Hollinwell, amateur Barclay Brown set the early pace after rounds of 68 and 72 gave him the clubhouse lead on a four-under-par total of 140.
An eagle on the par-5 third hole got the Great Britain and Ireland international off to a strong start and he picked up two birdies on 14 and 16 to complete an excellent first round. A steady level par 72 in the second round ensured the Stanford University student claimed the first qualifying place with no one in the field able to catch him.
Richard Mansell followed a similar path to The Open after earning his place in the Championship through Final Qualifying at Hollinwell for the second year running. Despite an opening one-over-par 73, the Englishman fought back in the second round to card a three-under-par round of 70 for a one-under-par total.
He was joined on the same mark by Oliver Farr and the three-time Challenge Tour winner will tee it up in The Open for the first time along with Marco Penge, who finished a shot further back on a level par total of 144.
Brown said: “I knew that I was playing for a place in The Open, but I tried not to think about it as I played. I’m thinking about it now and it will be pretty cool. I played the Old Course when I was about 10 years old with my mum and dad, but I’ve never played a competitive round there, so to think my first will be in The Open is pretty cool”
Penge, from West Sussex, was equally delighted to be competing in his first major championship after recovering from a recent knee injury. He said: “I can’t really believe what’s happened. I had a knee operation last October, so I had seven months without playing golf, but I’ve had great results on the Challenge Tour recently. I came in here with confidence, but I really wanted this today. It was hard in the wind, but I got the job done. I’ve always dreamt of playing in The Open, and to play my first at St Andrews is just awesome. Hopefully there will be more in the future, but I can say I’ve played in a major, in The Open at St Andrews, and I’m really appreciative of being able to play golf.”
Fairmont St Andrews
Ireland’s David Carey came out on top at Fairmont St Andrews after he finished ahead of the field on a seven-under-par total of 137. The Dubliner, who visited the Old Course yesterday to take in the surroundings, was inspired to post a bogey-free 69 followed by a 68 which included an eagle and two birdies to clinch a berth in the field for The Open in July when he will make his debut.
Richard Dinwiddie will return to compete in The Open for the first time since Royal Birkdale in 2017. The three-time Challenge Tour winner finished four shots adrift of Carey on a three-under-par total but secured the second qualifying place at the Fife venue.
Holland’s Lars Van Meijel and Alex Wrigley emerged from a three-way play-off against Aaron Rai as the trio competed for the two remaining places after finishing locked together on two-under-par. Two pars were enough against Rai’s bogey 5 as the pair held their nerve to edge out the two-time winner on the DP World Tour and claim the two remaining qualifying places.
For the full results from Final Qualifying, visit theopen.com