Bangkok, Thailand: The Open Qualifying Series moves to the Asian Tour this week with four places in the 144th Open in St Andrews on offer at the Thailand Golf Championship.
It is the first time that the championship, played from December 11-14, will be part of the Series, which gives players a chance to qualify for golf’s most international Major championship at 14 events in nine countries around the world.
The leading four players, who finish in the top-12 and ties at Amata Spring Country Club and who are not already exempt, will earn a place in The Open from July 16-19, 2015. In the event of a tie, the qualifying place(s) will go to the player with the highest position in the Official World Golf Ranking at the commencement of the event.
Dominic Wall, The R&A’s Director – Asia-Pacific, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Thailand Golf Championship to the Open Qualifying Series for the first time this year. The championship brings together the top players from across the region and having four qualifying places at The Open to play for will add an exciting new dimension to the event. Amata Spring is an outstanding venue and will prove an excellent test for the players attempting to earn a place at St Andrews.”
Thais Prayad Marksaeng, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Prom Meesawat will lead the home players seeking to qualify, with veteran Prayad looking to make a sixth appearance at The Open and Kiradech trying to secure a place in the field for a third year in succession.
Prom earned his first Asian Tour victory at the 2014 Yeangder Tournament Players Championship and will be attempting to make his first Open appearance since his debut at Royal St George’s in 2011. The trio will be aiming to join compatriot Thongchai Jaidee, who has already earned an exemption into The Open, at the Home of Golf.
Eight other players in the field have also secured places at St Andrews including defending Thailand Golf Championship winner Sergio Garcia and 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke. Two-time Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson is exempt along with 2014 US Open champion Martin Kaymer, European Ryder Cup players Victor Dubuisson and Lee Westwood, Koumei Oda, the number one ranked player in the 2014 Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit, and Tommy Fleetwood, who made his Open debut this year at Royal Liverpool.
Also in the field is 2014 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship winner Antonio Murdaca of Australia who is looking to make his first appearance at The Open. If he qualifies he will join compatriots Rod Pampling, Brett Rumford and Greg Chalmers who earned their places at St Andrews at the first Open Qualifying Series event at the Emirates Australian Open last month.
An additional six players joined the Thailand Golf Championship field following a pre-qualifying event at Siam Country Club in Pattaya. Thailand’s Tirawat Kaewsiribandit and Phachara Khongwatmai, Lam Zhiqun of Singapore, Mathiam Keyser of South Africa, James Byrne of Scotland and Craig Hinton of England have all qualified to play in the championship.
Play gets underway on Thursday with the 126-player field set to be cut to the leading 65 players and ties following Friday’s second round.
The Open Qualifying Series gives players the opportunity to qualify at events on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Asian Tour, the Japan Golf Tour and the Sunshine Tour with a total of 44 places in The Open available.