Up to four places in the field for the Open Championship at St Andrews in three weeks are on the line at the United States Tour’s Travelers Championship in Connecticut starting tonight, Australian time.
There are eight Australians in the field at TPC River Highlands but two – Marc Leishman and Greg Chalmers – are already qualified for St Andrews.
The others — Cameron Smith, Cameron Percy, Aaron Baddeley, Robert Allenby, Matt Jones and Steven Bowditch – will be hellbent on a strong finish this weekend to grab a place in the season’s third major championship, back at the home of golf.
It is the first time the Travelers Championship has been part of the Open Championship qualifying series.
The top four players in Connecticut otherwise not already exempt for the Open Championship will secure a spot in the field at St Andrews, provided they are in the top 12 finishers in the Travelers Championship.
Meanwhile the R and A announced today that for the first time, the Open winner will receive more than one million pounds in prizemoney. The total prize fund is at 6,300,000 pounds ($9.9 million) an inccrease of 900,000 pounds on last year.
For 21-year-old Queenslander Smith in particular, it is a tantalising prospect this week.
Just more than a year into his professional career, he is coming off a career finish in the United States Open at Chambers Bay, where an eagle at the 72nd hole vaulted him into a tie for fourth place.
The groundbreaking performance by the former Australian amateur champion has given him temporary membership of the US PGA Tour for the rest of this season, and guaranteed him a playing card for the 2015-16 season in America.
But Smith, a member of Golf Australia’s rookie squad of young professionals, has not played in an Open Championship.
So far, 12 Australians are in the field for St Andrews from 16-19 July, a big increase on last year’s group of eight at Royal Liverpool, where Adam Scott and Marc Leishman both finished in the top five.
But there are more places on offer as part of the qualifying series at next week's Greenbier Classic as well as the Alstom Open de France on the European Tour.
The Emirates Australian Open at The Australian in November also is part of the Open Championship qualifying, for the third year, but the three positions available there relate to the 2016 Open.
Greg Chalmers, Rod Pampling and Brett Rumford all won their places in the 2015 Open Championship field with prominent finishes in the Australian Open at The Australian last year.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD
(St Andrews from 16 July)