Cape Town - Defending Joburg Open champion George Coetzee believes there is a tremendous opportunity for players to qualify for the 144th Open at St Andrews at this week’s event in South Africa.
The leading three players who finish in the top ten and ties, who are not already exempt, will qualify for The Open which will be played at the Home of Golf from 16-19 July reports sunshinetour.com.
The Joburg Open is being played this week at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club and is the third event in the 2015 Open Qualifying Series following the Emirates Australian Open in November and the Thailand Golf Championship in December.
Coetzee achieved his first victory on the European Tour at the Joburg Open last year and secured one of the three qualifying places on offer for The Open along with fellow South African Justin Walters andJin Jeong of South Korea.
The 28 year-old from Pretoria made his fourth consecutive appearance in The Open at Royal Liverpool and went on to finish 18th. He is already exempt for this year’s Open at St Andrews.
He said: “I was absolutely delighted to qualify for The Open at the Joburg Open last year. It was a brilliant added bonus that came with the win. It’s a great idea to give guys the opportunity to qualify at Tour events and it means everyone has a lot to play for with places in a Major Championship at stake.
“It is an amazing experience to play in The Open and I received tremendous support from the galleries at Hoylake. I was pleased to finish in the top 20 and it gives me great confidence for this year. I am really looking forward to playing in my first Open at St Andrews and enjoying the wonderful atmosphere there.”
The 2011 Open Champion and recently confirmed 2016 European Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarkeand two-time winner on the European Tour Edoardo Molinari are both exempt along with South Africa’s Thomas Aiken and Coetzee.
Among the other contenders for qualifying places this week will be England’s Andy Sullivan, who won last month’s South African Open Championship, Swede Alex Noren, who was runner-up to defending Open Champion Rory McIlroy in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic earlier this month, and four-time winner on the European Tour Grégory Bourdy. Former Joburg Open champion Richard Sterne and qualifier last year Walters will also be hoping to secure a place at St Andrews.
The Amateur Champion Bradley Neil, who played in The Open at Royal Liverpool last year, will join them in the field this week.
Seven players have already secured places in The Open through the Qualifying Series: Rod Pampling, Brett Rumford and Greg Chalmers from the Emirates Australian Open and Marcus Fraser, Scott Hend, Jonathan Moore and Anirban Lahiri from the Thailand Golf Championship.
Co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour, the Joburg Open will begin on Thursday with 210 players taking to Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s East and West Courses. Following Friday’s second round, the field will be cut to the top 65 players and ties, who will play the final two rounds on the East Course.