Opportunity knocks for Irish quartet at Joburg Open


Jonathan Caldwell (Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

There’s added incentive in South Africa this week for Jonathan Caldwell, Niall Kearney, Paul Dunne and Cormac Sharvin with news that the leading three players who finish in the top-10 and ties at the Joburg Open – who are not already exempt – will earn places in The 150th Open at St Andrews from 14-17 July, 2022.

The Joburg Open is the first event in The Open Qualifying Series and will be played over the Firethorn Course at Randpark in Johannesburg from Thursday.

For those of you tuning into the action, note that the players in the field at the Joburg Open who are already exempt for The 150th Open at the Home of Golf are Dean Burmester, Dylan Frittelli, Justin Harding and Shaun Norris.

In the event of a tie for a qualifying place, the player with the higher ranking in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) at the beginning of the week commencing 22 November will be awarded a place in The 150th Open.

There’ll certainly be stronger fields on tour this season offering up such rewards, meaning increased opportunity for Ireland’s quartet who go into the event in very different head spaces off the back of the 2020/21 season.

Clandeboye pro Caldwell will be most at ease having enjoyed a week off in Capetown sampling the food and vineyards before making his way to Randpark to prepare for a year playing off a winner’s category courtesy of his breakthrough success at the Scandinavian Mix.

“I’ll play the three co-sanctioned events and then have five weeks off ahead coming back out for Abu Dhabi and the Middle East Swing,” Caldwell confirmed. “I haven’t played Abu Dhabi nor the Desert Classic, so it’s all new to me and it’s going to be really exciting.

“Then there’s the added excitement of a new DP World Tour, a new schedule and an increase in prize-money, so it’s going to be a busy new season and more and more money to play for, and what better start to the New Year teeing-up in a Rolex Series event in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and get off to a good start to 2022.

“This new DP World Tour is going to be great for every category and not only for the guys on the lower end playing for double the prize-money at events we played this year, but also at the top-end with some huge prize-money tournaments.”

As Caldwell points out, there’ll be opportunity aplenty for him to play his way into The Open this year given his abundance of starts but the same can’t be said for the trio of Kearney, Dunne and Sharvin who’ll each hope to tee-up at least 20 times off conditional status across the 47-tournament campaign, though there are no guarantees.

While Royal Dublin’s Kearney enters the year with renewed optimism having improved his Category from 22 to 18 off the back of his most successful season in the pro ranks to date, both Dunne and Cormac Sharvin are in desperate need of a spark and won’t for one second be thinking about punching their Open tickets given their form.

Now ranked 1783 in the world, Dunne managed to make just three cuts from 18 starts on Tour last season while although Sharvin returned a better campaign having made 10 cuts from 15 starts, his recent run has been alarming with a tied-61st result in Mallorca his best finish since a tied 44th effort in July’s Scottish Open.

Luckily, one week can change it all in golf and given the talent of both Sharvin and Dunne, you’d have to think that they’re both too good not to produce a game-changing performance eventually. Let’s hope this week is it.

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