London, England: Korean An Byeong-hun was among 12 players who secured their places at The Open Championship via Final Qualifying.
At Sunningdale, An qualified along with England’s Matthew Southgate and Chris Rodgers. At Gailes Links, three Scottish golfers earned their passage to The Open – Marc Warren, Jamie McLeary and Paul McKechnie.
At Woburn, the places went to amateur Paul Dunne of Ireland, and England’s Oliver Fisher and Rhys Enoch, and at Hillside the three qualifers were John Singleton and Christopher Hanson of England and Oscar Floren of Sweden.
Sunningdale proved the most testing of the four qualifying venues where only two players managed to break par. A total of 288 players competed for 12 places at The Open, which will be played from July 17-20 at Royal Liverpool.
Southgate carded an opening one-over 70 before charging to the top of the leaderboard with a closing 64 for a four-under-par 134 winning aggregate. The 25-year-old finished one stroke ahead of An, who shot 69, 66 for a 135 total.
Despite starting his second round with a bogey, An, the 2009 US Amateur champion, rallied with four birdies and no dropped shots.
“I played steady. It’s the sort of course you need to have a game plan and I stuck to it. You have to be patient,” said the 22-year-old, who is looking forward to a week’s break back home in Orlando after four months on the road.
Instead of playing on the Challenge Tour in Switzerland in a couple of weeks, An will now return to England to compete in his fourth Major. In 2010 he played in The Open at St Andrews, The Masters and the US Open after his US Amateur success.
Rodgers had an agonising wait before realising his dream of playing in The Open for the first time. Despite bogeying the final hole, the London professional shot 67, 72 for a one-over 139 to secure the third and final spot. “It’s a dream come true. I can really look forward to Hoylake and see what happens,” said the 38-year-old.
Former World Cup winner Warren came with a late surge to move ahead of long-time leader McLeary for top spot at Gailes Links in Ayrshire.
Helped by a course-record 63 in the morning, McLeary set a formidable target of seven-under on a course that became more and more fiery in the glorious sunny conditions.
Scotland’s Warren, a two-time European Tour winner, had set out in the afternoon six shots off the pace in his bid to secure a second successive Open appearance. But a 64, coupled with a 72 from McLeary, who got off to a shaky start in his second round saw the 33-year-old Glaswegian finish in top spot by two shots on nine-under 133.
“It means a lot to get back into The Open. Last year was my first taste of it. But I was frustrated as I was close to making the cut and you want another shot at it,” said Warren.
At Woburn, Dunne survived a huge scare before he came through to win Final Qualifying over the Marquess course.
The 22-year-old from Greystones arrived on the first tee with just one minute to spare ahead of his opening round but managed to retain his composure and post two rounds of 67 to claim a three-shot victory on 10-under 134.
“It gave me a bit of a fright,” admitted the Irish international, part of the winning European collegiate team at last week’s Palmer Cup at Walton Heath.
“I misjudged the time it would take me to get from the clubhouse out to the 10th tee but fortunately I managed to hit my opening tee shot straight down the middle.
“This is the first time I have ever played in an event like this so I wasn’t sure what would be a good score. I just decided to press and see what happened and it turned out very well.”
The next events in The Open Qualifying Series, which comprises 14 events in nine countries on five continents, are this week’s Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour and the Alstom Open de France on the European Tour.