Friday, March 02, 2012


Chonburi, Thailand: Anirban Lahiri of India earned his Major debut at The Open Championship after shooting a final round five-under-par 67 at the International Final Qualifying (IFQ) today.
Lahiri, winner of the SAIL-SBI Open in India last week, led the trio of Prayad Marksaeng, who shot the best round of 64, Kodai Ichihara of Japan and Mardan Mamat of Singapore, who sealed the fourth and final ticket after winning in a three-way play-off against compatriot Lam Chih Bing and Jonathan Moore of the United States.
Play was suspended due to lightning threats with two more flights yet to finish and was resumed after two hours and 35 minutes at the majestic Amata Spring Country Club.
Lahiri turned in 35 but sparked into life on his homeward nine highlighted by an eagle-three on the 15th hole when his five-wood approach shot landed three feet from the hole. His charge was stopped momentarily as play was suspended with two more holes to play.
“It has been a childhood dream of mine. It feels really nice. This is the third IFQ I have come for and the last the couple of times I played pretty poorly. It is really nice that I have made it.
“The rain was quite a damper because I knew I was two ahead. I just needed to finish it off and win it. It was a little bit frustrating because we didn’t know how long the storm would stay but I’m glad it is all over and done with,” said Lahiri, who posted a nine-under-par 135.
The young Indian was delighted to add a Major appearance to his fledging career where he has won two Asian Tour titles.
“This is something every player looks forward to. I’m glad we have this opportunity on the Asian Tour. The fact that I have come here and won it is very special to me and I hope that I can make it a memorable one at The Open,” he added.
Prayad, a six-time Asian Tour winner, bounced back from an opening 73 courtesy of a new driver and some hot putting where he sank a monster 50-feet birdie putt from the edge of the eighth green. He will be making his fifth appearance in The Open.
“I was very lucky today because I sank all my long putts. Everything just clicked for me from my driving to my putting. It was just one of those good days. It feels great to qualify for The Open again and this time, I’ll be aiming to make the cut for the first time in my career,” said Prayad, who shot a flawless round highlighted by six straight birdies from the sixth hole.
“I’m getting older and might not get a better chance to qualify for The Open. It is always an advantage playing at home and I wouldn’t want to miss the chance to play in a Major championship,” he added.
Ichihara, who missed out on a fourth and final ticket to The Open by one shot last year, battled into third place with a flawless 69 as Japanese amateur Hideki Matsuyama, who was in contention for the Open spot faded with a double bogey on 16, bogey on 17 and triple bogey on the last.
“I feel excellent. I didn’t think about last year at all. I came here with a lot of positives and I’m glad I finally made it through. I feel great and I can’t wait to play in The Open. I feel sorry for Matsuyama. He played well except for three bad holes,” said Ichihara, a regular on the Asian Tour before losing his Tour card last year.
Mardan, playing four flights behind overnight leaders Moore and Lahiri, had an agonizing three-hour wait before playing in the play-off which he triumphed with a tricky 12 feet birdie putt on the par four 18th hole.
Mardan closed with a 69 to tie in regulation play with Lam and Moore on 140. “I told Lam before the play-off that no matter what, one of us has to win the play-off and I was glad I did. It is remarkable to make my third appearance in The Open.
“It has been a sensational few weeks for me. I can’t believe I made it to The Open. It was a very long wait for me with the suspension of play and the fact that I finished earlier but it was well worth the wait!” said Mardan, who won the ICTSI Philippine Open last month.
The Open Championship will be played at the Royal Lytham St Annes from July 19 to 22.
Par 144 (2x72) Yardage: 7,441
Amata Spring CC course
135 Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 68-67.
137 Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 73-64.
138 Kodai ICHIHARA (JPN) 69-69.
140 LAM Chih Bing (SIN) 71-69, Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 71-69, Jonathan MOORE (USA) 68-72.
141 Arnond VONGVANIJ (THA) 72-69, Scott HEND (AUS) 71-70, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 71-70.
142 Guido VAN DER VALK (NED) 73-69, Javi COLOMO (ESP) 74-68, Kunal BHASIN (AUS) 70-72, Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 70-72, Hideki MATSUYAMA (am, JPN) 69-73.
143 Himmat RAI (IND) 73-70, PARK Ju-hyuk (KOR) 77-66, Scott BARR (AUS) 69-74.



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