Bangkok, Thailand; Former Open champions Ernie Els and Darren Clarke believe that incorporating the Open Qualifying Series (OQS) within this month’s Thailand Golf Championship is a boost for the Asian Tour’s flagship event and the game’s eldest Major.
A total of four places at the 2015 Open Championship, to be played next July at St Andrews, will be up for grabs in Thailand, and the illustrious duo, both of whom will be teeing it up at Amata Spring Country Club from December 11-14, are fully behind the new initiative.
The Open Qualifying Series has replaced the R&A’s International Final Qualifying for The Open, which was introduced in 2004 and involved standalone 36-hole qualifying events across five continents.
“The Thailand Golf Championship has developed a reputation for bringing the finest players from Asia together with those from overseas, so it makes perfect sense that the Open Qualifying Series should be a part of the tournament,” said South African Els, who won the 2002 and 2012 Opens at Muirfield and Royal Lytham and St Annes respectively.
“Having the spots available for St Andrews definitely adds another exciting dimension to the tournament and a lot of the guys will be gunning for them. To play in the Open Championship is the ultimate.”
While the Thailand Golf Championship boasts a stellar field of international players – defending champion Sergio Garcia, two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, current US Open champion Martin Kaymer, Ryder Cup heroes Lee Westwood and Victor Dubuisson, in addition to Els and Clarke, have confirmed their participation in the US$1 million event – the Open Championship spots will go to the leading four finishers who have not already qualified.
Clarke enjoyed the finest moment of his career at The 140th Open at Royal St George’s in 2011, where he held off Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson to clinch the Claret Jug.
“There’s no doubt that having a 72-hole event is a fairer system for the Asian Tour players hoping to qualify,” said the Northern Irishman. “It’s an enhancement of the process and ultimately means the Open Championship field will be stronger as a result.”