Date: November 26, 2014
Author: Mark Hayes @ The Australian GC

An Open & shut case: the road to St Andrew�s starts here


The Stonehaven Cup is the short-term goal for the field in this week’s Emirates Australian Open.

But for three players at The Australian, another life-changing prize awaits.

The road to the home of golf for the 2015 Open Championship starts its long and winding path to Scotland from Sydney on Thursday.

And that the national championship plays an important part in the quest for the Claret Jug is far from a happy coincidence.

A swag of influential members of the R&A are in Sydney to play their part and golf’s governing body’s Asia-Pacific director Dominic Wall is thrilled the Emirates Australian Open can play its part in the world’s most revered golf tournament.

It’s only the second year of the Open Qualifying Series – a group of 14 global tournaments that will give direct access to St Andrew’s in July.

In the case of the Emirates Australian Open – the first in the series – it means the three highest-ranked players in the top 10 on Sunday who aren’t already exempt punch their ticket to Scotland.

Given there are only six exempt players in the field, we are guaranteed to have another three names that advanced, just as John Senden, Rhein Gibson and Bryden Macpherson did in 2013.

The system replaced the former IFQ process – a separate series of events not played concurrently with existing tournaments.

“Last year was the first year of the Open Qualifying Series and we had 14 tournaments around the world that enabled 44 players direct entry into the Open,” Wall said.

“It was enormously successful. The players appreciated that we didn’t run stand-alone qualifying events and that they could fit it in with their existing schedules.

“Using the Australian Open as an example, we got some players through from Royal Sydney with John, Rhein and Bryden playing well and two of them made the cut (Macpherson missed the weekend action).

“We also think that having a 72-hole qualifier (as opposed to the 36-hole IFQ events previously), is a little more reflective of the best players coming through.”

Wall said the historic aspects of the Emirates Australian Open were a perfect fit for the Open Championship.

“The Australian Open is a great event in that players can qualify to play through a number of mechanisms, so,

yes, it’s a truly “open” event and that fits perfectly the ethos that we’re trying to with the Open Qualifying Series,” he said.

“We’ve had a very long-term relationship with Golf Australia, the governing body for the sport in Australia and we work closely with it on a number of projects.

“But also the Australian Open is the premier tournament on the Australasian PGA Tour and to be associated with this event and its history makes it the ideal fit for the Open Championship.

“We’re certainly promoting the link between the Opens a lot more now and we’re hoping as the years move on, we become more closely associated with the Australian Open.”

Nothing is left to chance with qualification, right down to a tie-breaking system – based on highest world ranking – should more than the eligible number of players finish on the same score.

“A lot of forethought and planning goes into it and we take particular care and attention to all aspects of the championship,” Wall said.

“We have a strong presence because it’s an important process for us to make sure it operates effectively and we have a great relationship with the PGA Tour of Australasia and Golf Australia and we’re sure that come the weekend we’ll have three worthy players to come to St Andrew’s.”