Ayr Advertiser

Local man seals his place at The Open


AN AYRSHIRE golfer has held his nerve to secure a place at The Open Championsh­ip – after some of the sport’s biggest names missed out.

Michael Stewart earned his place at “golf’s original championsh­ip” following the final qualifying round at Dundonald Links on Tues-day last week.

The qualifier for the final major of the year was played over two rounds – with only four qualifying spots up for grabs.

Heading into his final five holes, Stewart, from Irvine, was one of several players who were at three-under-par and right on the cut-off mark for qualifying.

However, a remarkable four-birdie finish saw the local lad soar up the leaderboar­d to qualify in top spot.

The Irvine man, who plays on the European Challenge Tour, finished on seven under, two shots clear of England’s Marco Penge.

Now, Stewart will make his way down to Hoylake to play at Royal Liverpool in the 151st Open Championsh­ip from July 20 to July 23.

And the local man says he has the superb group of fans he had backing him to thank.

He said: “It was a great day and a really good last six holes. It was great to have that support out there.

“It was a very testing day, especially this morning. I’m absolutely delighted.

“It was just good being a local lad and having so many folk out there supporting me. It gives you a little bit of momentum or a little bit of encouragem­ent when things maybe aren’t going quite according to plan.

“Hoylake is one of the very few Opens I have been at. I played in the Junior Open in 2006 – at Heswall – and went along as a specta-tor.

“I have many fond memories of the place and we were then when Tiger won.”

The final two places were decided in a three-way play-off after a trio of players finished on three under par.

Scottish-born Australian Connor McKinney secured his place with a birdie on the second play-off hole – the 11th – and Graeme Rob-ertson holed from almost 40 feet to edge out his fellow Scot Craig Ross on the fifth play-off hole, again the 11th.

And coming through qualifying is no mean feat – with some top stars missing out.

At Dundonald, Michael Block – who made headlines after the club profession­al earned a 15th-place finish at the US PGA Champion-ship last month – failed to reproduce his heroics from that tournament, finishing in a tie for 47th on nine over par.

A total of 19 players out of 288 across four final qualifying venues earned their places at Royal Liverpool, with Stewart joining some massive names in the competitio­n.

At Royal Cinque Ports in Kent, former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel was one of three South Africans to earn a place at Hoy-lake.

At the West Lancashire course near Liverpool, English star Matt Wallace led the way, with Matt Fitzpatric­k’s brother Alex joining his brother at the championsh­ip after also coming through qualifying.

The West Lancashire qualifying event saw several of golf’s biggest names miss out – with Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Jamie Donaldson all failing to win a spot.

It is the first time since 1997 that Garcia will miss the Open – with the former Masters winner having finished in a tie for second place the last time Royal Liverpool hosted the tournament, in 2014.

There are now only six more Open qualifying spots up for grabs, with three each going to the leading players who haven’t already qualified at the Made in HimmerLand event in Denmark from July 6 to July 9 and at the Genesis Scottish Open, at the Renaissanc­e Club in North Berwick, from tomorrow to Saturday.

 ?? ?? Michael Stewart celebrates earning his spot
Michael Stewart celebrates earning his spot

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