Tuesday, July 04, 2017



Ian Poulter, playing in front of a large gallery at his home course of Woburn, was one of 15 players to make it through Final Qualifying for The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale today. 
Matthew Southgate won the qualifier at Royal Cinque Ports at Deal for the second year running as three players at each of five venues claimed places in golf’s original Championship.
Poulter heads back to Royal Birkdale and the scene of his best finish in The Open as runner-up to Padraig Harrington in 2008. Poulter thought he had missed out on a place at his favourite Open venue after three-putting for a par-five at the seventh hole, his 34th.
He then had to get up and down from a bunker on his last for par to return rounds of 70 and 68.
Indias Shiv Kapur took the top spot with scores of 71 and 65 for an eight-under-par 136 total. He made a special 4,167-mile round trip from his home in Delhi just to play. He only arrived in Woburn on Sunday evening and was flying straight home. Englands Toby Tree earned a start in the biggest championship of his career by tying Poulter for second on six-under-par. Swedens Jens Dantorp left Woburn frustrated after receiving a two-shot penalty for having 15 clubs in his bag on his opening hole of the day before going on to finish one shot outside the qualifiers. 
Southgate won his Final Qualifying event for the third time in four years, including back-to-back years at Royal Cinque Ports.
 In 2014 Southgate won at Sunningdale before going on to miss the cut at Royal Liverpool. In 2015 he failed to qualify and instead spent the week of The Open at St Andrews recovering from an operation for testicular cancer. 
Last year he made an emotional return to The Open with a tied 12th place finish at Royal Troon, just missing out on an automatic trip to Royal Birkdale. But an afternoon 65, thanks to an outward 32 plus his seventh birdie of the round at the 17th, took care of that as he finished on six-under-par.
Robert Dinwiddie finished three shots behind to secure his second Open appearance while Austin Connelly, a 20-year-old dual citizen of Canada and the United States in his first year on the European Tour, birdied the first extra hole of a play-off from 15 feet to claim the final place ahead of three others.
Amateur Connor Syme carded one of the lowest round of the day - a four-under-par 67 - to share top spot with American professional Julian Suri in testing conditions at Gailes Links in Ayrshire.
Walker Cup contender Syme, who turns 22 next week, produced a flawless afternoon effort. Suri, a 26-year-old Floridian, led by a shot after a morning 69 before signing for the same second-round score to also finish on four-under-par. Following in the footsteps of US Open champion Brooks Koepka, he has come over to play on the Challenge Tour, winning in the Czech Republic this season to lead the Road to Oman. Ryan McCarthy, a 27-year-old from Tasmania, secured the third place after winning a four-man play-off with an eight-foot birdie at the first extra hole. 
Haydn McCullen, shot a course-record 64 to finish on 135 at Hillside, two strokes clear of Nick McCarthy, with Adam Hodkinson third a further stroke back. McCullen, a 20-year-old who plays out of Delamere Forest in Cheshire, gained nine birdies and dropped just one shot as he came from five behind the leaders at the halfway stage. It was third time lucky at Hillside for Moortown's McCarthy when he posted rounds of 66-71, having fallen at the same final hurdle in the last two years.
England’s Mark Foster and Joe Dean shared first place at Notts Golf Club (Hollinwell). Forster, from nearby Worksop, carded rounds of 68 and 66 and a few minutes later was joined on ten-under-par 134 by Dean whose second-round 64, including a run of five consecutive threes from the fourth, was the lowest score of the day.  
Foster and Dean finished three shots clear of English professional Lawrie Canter and amateurs Rhys Nevin-Wharton and Stefano Mazzoli. Mazzoli, who played in last year’s Open as reigning European Amateur champion, was the first player to drop out of the subsequent play-off when he bogeyed the second extra hole before Canter sealed his spot at Birkdale with a par-four on the next hole.  
Key quotes:
Ian Poulter
“Job done. Obviously going back to Birkdale after what happened in 2008 is special. You know I thought I had that 15-foot putt (on the 72nd) to maybe win or get in a play-off and then my Irish friend (Padraig Harrington) decided to go bananas on the last five holes. It was a great week, my best in a major. All my family and friends were there to see me play and after I finished Katie told me she was pregnant with Lily, so it was happy days that week. I would say Birkdale is my favourite Open venue because of 2008 and Im looking forward to competing there. Its going to be a busy run. It will be my fourth tournament in a row but its about managing my energy levels. But as soon as I get there I will be pumped for the week.”
Shiv Kapur
“It means a lot to get back into the championship. I have flown all the way from India to play in this qualifier, so that just shows you how much I want to play in The Open Championship. Growing up as a kid The Open Championship was the ultimate. I havent played Royal Birkdale, and I havent played The Open Championship since 2013 at Muirfield when I led during the first round. So I have very fond memories of that.”
Toby Tree
“I enjoyed it. I didnt feel nervous on the back nine but I couldnt make a golf swing, so I guess I was. I played lovely all day but literally couldnt find a golf swing that back nine. I just hung on in there really. Ive never played in an Open Championship before so this is huge. A few years ago I missed out at Final Qualifying by three shots. Ive been playing on the Sunshine Tour and played quite well. Im now on the Challenge Tour and havent really played so well this year.” 
Matthew Southgate 
“I’m thrilled to be back at The Open. It means so much to me. Last year at Troon was amazing with my family there and to be in the mix was amazing. The atmosphere was electric. It brought a tear to my eye when I finished on 18th because I was overwhelmed with how I played. To be honest I thought 12th place might have got an exemption for this year but that’s all fine now. That’s three wins in this for me now. I played unbelievable golf this afternoon, found a nice rhythm with my swing and ripped it into the wind. Links golf, I don’t know what it is, but it gets my brain switched on to hitting these little fades and draws and I really enjoy it.”
Robert Dinwiddie
“For what has been a very disappointing year so far, what a way to turn it around. It is fantastic to be back in The Open. It’s only my second time after missing the cut at St Andrews in 2015 but it is always great to be in a major. It was not easy out there and I hit a lot of good shots. I played the back nine first into that wind it was brutal and frustrating to drop a couple of shots at the 16th and 18th but I knew there were chances to come and took advantage of the par-fives third and fifth, plus hit a wedge to four feet for a two at the fourth.” 
Austin Connelly 
“I’m so excited to get to play in The Open. This was only my second time on a links course and I didn’t get to play all the holes in practice. It was such a grind but generally I keep it straight and love hitting low, boring draws and love playing in the wind from growing up in Texas. I used to play with Todd Hamilton when I was growing up and I remember him beating Ernie Els in the 2004 Open. I may talk to him about what to expect at Royal Birkdale. This year I committed to the European Tour and Challenge Tour and I’m really enjoying it so this means a lot.”
Julian Suri
“This will be my first major but I feel it is deserved because I have played some really good golf this year. This is where I feel my game belongs - playing at the highest level. This is my first time playing links golf and I feel as though I handled it well in typical summer Scottish conditions. It was such a mental grind in the weather and it is pleasing to have put it together over 36 holes. I have always been intrigued with links golf and always got up early in the morning to watch The Open on TV back home. Indeed, the first one I remember watching was Mark O'Meara winning at Birkdale in 1998 and now it is surreal for me to be playing there.” 
Connor Syme 
“I played awesome, especially to be bogey-free this afternoon. It is amazing to be in The Open and I was thinking about that out there even though I was trying to stay in the moment. The first Open my dad (PGA pro Stuart) took me to was at Troon in 2004 and I was buzzing after getting Phil Mickelson's ball at St Andrews in 2005.” 
Haydn McCullen
“I played and putted really well. I sent for a new putter last Friday as I was unhappy with the one I've been using. They said it would be here by Monday, but it didn't come. It's probably at home now. I putted really well today, so I don't know what I'll use at Birkdale. But it's just great to have made it into The Open Championship. Hillside is one of my favourite courses. I won the Lancashire Amateur here in 2013. I reached this stage last year but didn't make it.” 
Nick McCarthy 
“It's been a dream since I was a kid to play in The Open. I like playing here at Hillside as it's a really good test. I only dropped one shot all day when I lost a ball on the 17th in the second round. I'm very excited to be playing in The Open. I can't wait for the week after next.”
Laurie Canter
“One week in golf can change your life so it’s a great chance for me. My only previous appearance in The Open was 2010. It’s funny to think it was that long ago but that’s the way it has turned out. I was an amateur at the time so it was a bit of a baptism for me. I remember very little about the first ound other than I went out in a storm. It was pretty brutal but also very special to play at St Andrews.”
Mark Foster
“It’s brilliant. When you come here knowing there’s only three spots you know that the odds are against you but I played fantastic and can’t wait to get to Birkdale. It’s been a while since I’ve played in an Open and once you get to my age you start to wonder if you are going to get another chance. I would like to thank all the fans that came over from Worksop to support me. My Dad Barry played football for Mansfield so he’s a lot more famous in this area than me but the support I got was incredible form start to finish and it means a lot to me.”
Joe Dean
“Playing in The Open is going to be incredible. I’ve never even been to one before so to be inside the ropes is going to be an incredible experience and one I will never forget. I’ve played here a few times and not had much luck so it’s nice to put in two good rounds together like that. I’ve been playing on the EuroPro Tour this year. I’ve missed a couple for Challenge Tour starts but I’ve been playing pretty well.”
The Open is played from 16-23 July at Royal Birkdale.

For the final leaderboards from Final Qualifying




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