As consolation prizes go, it isn’t too shabby. While Cameron Davis claimed the title and the $225,000 first-place cheque at the end of a pulsating fourth round of the 102nd Australian Open, two men behind the world number 1494 on a crowded leaderboard at the Australian Club – Jonas Blixt and Matt Jones – can join the 22-year old Australian in planning a trip to the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland next July.
In the first of the “Open Qualifying Series” – 15 events to be played across the PGA Tour, European Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia, the Asian Tour, the Sunshine Tour and the Japan Tour over the next few months – the lucky trio were the leading three players in the top-ten finishers not already exempt for golf’s oldest and most important event.
So far so good. But it is to be hoped that all three fare better than their predecessors. Since the “OQS” began in 2013, no player identified by the Australian Open has gone on to finish inside the top-25 at the Open. Six have missed the halfway cut, with Aaron Bradley’s T-27 finish at Royal Birkdale last year the best result recorded by any of the 12 previous qualifiers.
Still, none of the above will be bothering Davis, Blixt, or Jones (who was successful for the second time in three years). Certainly the two runners-up were already looking forward to visiting the fearsome Angus links – deservedly reputed to be the toughest course on the Open rota.
“That is cool,” said Blixt. “I played Carnoustie in the British Amateur Championship a long time ago. It’s quite a golf course and a great place to play. I’m definitely looking forward to going back.”
Jones, the most unlikely of the three qualifiers, was just as enthusiastic. Which is hardly surprising. The 37-year old has endured a sorry couple of years on tour. Ranked 54th in the world at the start of 2016, he arrived in his home city as low as 421st. No matter. After making four bogeys in the first six holes of the final round, the 2015 Australian Open champion and Australian club member made seven birdies in the next 12 to shoot a crazy 68 and book his Open spot.
“Can’t wait,” was his short and succinct reaction to the news.