Irish Open to benefit from R&A decision to restructure British Open qualification process
Pádraig Harrington believes new structure will entice a stronger entry
Pádraig Harrington believes the new structure will entice a stronger entry into the Irish Open.
The decision of the R&A to scrap the annual international qualifying for the British Open and to restructure the qualification structure for golf’s oldest Major championship will result in benefits for a number of selected tournaments, among them the Irish Open.
The new international qualifying series – taking in 14 tournaments in nine countries – will award places in the field for the British Open, starting with next year’s championship at Royal Liverpool on July 13th-20th. The Irish Open is one of the chosen European Tour events, along with the French Open and the Scottish Open, offering three places to players not previously exempt who finish in the top 10 and ties of next year’s event.
A venue hast yet to be announced for the Irish Open, although it is expected to be staged over the O’Meara course at Carton House.
Pádraig Harrington, who numbers two claret jugs among this three Major titles, believes the new qualifying structure will entice a stronger entry into the Irish Open. “I really do think it will attract more players to the Irish Open, especially those who are not already exempt for The Open championship, (there will be) some quality players in that category . . . . it’s a nice boost for the European Tour from the R&A.”
His sentiments were echoed by Paul Lawrie, whose only Major title came when lifting the British Open in 1999. “Two things jump out,” said Lawrie. “It’s going to strengthen the tournaments where those places are going to be coming from and that it is qualifying over a 72-hole event, which I think is fairer for the players trying to qualify.”
The Irish Open, the French Open and the Scottish Open are the three tournaments on the European Tour which will benefit from the arrangement. Other tournaments on the PGA Tour in the United States, the Australasian Tour, the Japan Tour and the Sunshine Tour in South Africa will also offer qualifying places.
Peter Dawson, chief executive of The R&A, said, “This is a significant change to the qualifying process for The Open and one which will make the championship as open as possible to players from around the world.”
The matter of scheduling is one of the most pressing matters any tour player faces each year, with the European Tour’s ‘Final Series’ emphasising such demands with players required to play in two of the three scheduled events ahead of the Race to Dubai finale in the DP World championship.
Gonzalo Fernandez Castano’s win in the BMW Masters in Shanghai has earned him a place in the field for this week’s €6 million WGC-HSBC Champions tournament which features a limited field of 78 players, including 25 of this season’s winners on the European Tour and 22 winners from the 2013 US PGA Tour.
Graeme McDowell, who remains second in the European Tour money list, and Rory McIlroy are the only Irish players in the field. Shane Lowry resumes action in next week’s Turkish Airlines Open (the third of the Final Series), whilst Harrington will also be in Turkey in a late, late bid to break into the top 60 on the money list and claim a place in the Dubai finale.
As things stand, McIlroy is not yet in the field for Dubai and he is not entered to play in Turkey. McIlroy, though, has a great opportunity to cement his place for Dubai in this week’s no-cut tournament which offers in excess of €1 million to the winner and a minimum €28,918 to the last-placed player. McIlroy is only €3,586 behind Garth Mulroy who currently occupies the 60th spot in the R2D standings. McIlroy’s prospects of ensuring he makes it into the Dubai finale next month is also boosted by the fact that six of the eight players immediately ahead of him in the current rankings aren’t qualified to play in the HSBC. Mulroy, Craig Lee, Danny Willett, Soren Kjeldsen, David Horsey and Alejandro Canizares are all likely to be leapfrogged by McIlroy this week.
Meanwhile, the second stage of the European Tour qualifying school will be held at four Spanish venues, starting on Saturday next. Twelve Irish players will be among those seeking tickets into the Q-School finals.