No joy for the Irish contingent at Open Championship Final Qualifying

Mark McGowan

The Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

There will be no fairytale qualifier stories involving the Irish when the 151st Open Championship gets underway at Royal Liverpool in a fortnight’s time.

In total, 18 hopefuls from these shores teed it up across the four host venues of Dundonald Links, Royal Cinque Ports, Royal Porthcawl and West Lancashire, all vying to earn one of 19 exemptions to Hoylake by way of a gruelling 36-hole examination, and join Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington, Seamus Power, Darren Clarke and Alex Maguire as they chase the coveted Claret Jug.

There were just four qualifying spots on offer at Ayrshire’s Dundonald Links as opposed to five at the other three, and with 11 Irish in the field, it was by far the most populous from an Irish perspective. Ronan Mullarney was the top placing Irishman after rounds of one-under and level-par, one stroke ahead of Daniel Mulligan and Stuart Grehan.


Unfortunately for Mullarney, his one-under total saw him fall two strokes shy of a playoff for the third and fourth spots, with Scotsman Michael Stewart taking medalist honours at -7 and England’s Marco Penge earning the second outright exemption. Australia’s Connor McKinney and Scottish duo Craig Ross and Graeme Robertson, who all finished at -3, entered a three-for-two playoff. McKinney secured his invite with a birdie on the first playoff hole, and Robertson would eventually join him thanks to a lengthy birdie putt on the fifth.

Big names such as Robert Rock and Aaron Rai were among those missing out at Dundonald, along with Irishmen Robert Moran, Jonathan Yates, Brian McCormack, John-Ross Galbraith, Mark Power, Kevin LeBlanc, Michael McGeady and Brendan McCarroll. Also missing out was US PGA Championship hero Michael Block who carded rounds of 77 and 76 for a nine-over total.

At Royal Cinque Ports on England’s south-eastern coast, Dermot McElroy and Liam Grehan were up against arguably the strongest field of the four, and Ballymena man McElroy’s two-over total saw him finish tied for seventh behind co-leading qualifiers Marting Rohwer from South Africa and Belgian Thomas Detry, with further all-star names in Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Antoine Rozner taking the remaining places one shot behind the leading duo at -2.

Further west on the southern Welsh coast, leading Irish amateurs Hugh Foley and Quentin Carew were among those teeing it up at Royal Porthcawl, and though Carew would see his chances reduced to miniscule after an opening 76, a one-over 72 that included four birdies in succession on the back nine had Foley firmly in the hunt and he’d follow up with a one-under 70 in round two, capped by an incredible hole-in-one on the par-3 11th . Unfortunately for the Royal Dublin man, he’d agonisingly fall one stroke shy of a playoff.

LIV’s Laurie Canter put rounds of 69 and 65 together for an eight-under total that saw him top the leaderboard, with fellow Englishmen Brandon Robinson Thompson and Matthew Southgate in second and third respectively, and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond and Welshman Oliver Farr looked set to face off in a two-for-one playoff for the final spot. South Africa’s Oliver Bekker, however, needing par at the last to take solo fourth ended up taking a nightmare triple bogey-seven to allow Janewattananond and Farr straight passage through.

In the last of the four qualifiers, held at West Lancashire Golf Club, Graeme McDowell, Matthew McClean and Gerard Dunne were all in action, with McDowell’s 72 and 68 for a four-under total seeing him edge his fellow Northern Irishman McClean by one stroke, but with scoring low at West Lancashire, McDowell’s tally was only good for a tie for 11th.

Matt Wallace took leading honours with an 11-under total, and Royal Liverpool’s Matthew Jordan will get to tee it up on home turf at The Open after taking joint second place at -10, alongside South African Kyle Barker, with Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of major winning Matt, and German amateur Tiger Christensen rounding out the exemptions after posting nine-under totals for tied fourth.

Sergio Garcia will also be notable by his absence at Royal Liverpool, after the Spaniard played his final nine holes at West Lancashire in one-over to miss out on a playoff by the minimum. It will be the first time since 1997 that Garcia won’t feature at an Open Championship.


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