Open Qualifying: Club mix-up blows Higgins’ chance

The full round-up from Local Final Qualifying as a handful of players gain a coveted spot at Murfield

Local Final Qualifying for The Open at Muirfield ended in disaster for one former European Tour professional, who came within touching distance of qualification only to find that he had 15 clubs in his bag.


Ireland’s David Higgins, who made his debut on the European Tour in 1996 and missed the cut at the recent Irish Open, had made a play-off at North Berwick to compete for one Open spot, only to discover an extra club in his bag – resulting in a two shot penalty.


Elsewhere, Kent’s Steven Tiley won the LFQ event at The Musselburgh to book a place at Muirfield, but Colin Montgomerie failed to earn himself a return to the course where he has such a turbulent time in 2002.


Tiley carded scores of 64 and 69 to win by three from Scot Lloyd Saltman and Tyrrell Hatton on 9-under-par.

“I have never played Muirfield, so it’s nice to know that I’m into The Open and for me it’s easily the best Championship in the world,” said Tiley.

Montgomerie, who made his Champions Tour debut in America last week, was among 72 players at Gullane competing for three places in golf’s oldest Major. 

"I threw it away – never mind. I just played badly this afternoon. I didn’t get going at all. It’s very disappointing after being 5-under." – Colin Montgomerie Followed by large crowds throughout, he was leading at 5-under after 12 holes but had to be content with an opening 2-under-par 69 which was still good enough for a share of third spot but he could only follow it up with a 76 to miss by four strokes.

“I threw it away – never mind,” said the 50-year-old eight-time European Tour number one. “It’s not my schedule. I just played badly this afternoon. I didn’t get going at all. It’s very disappointing after being 5-under.”

Mark James, the other former Ryder Cup captain in the field and now only three months from his 60th birthday, was also competing at Gullane No 1, but with rounds of 72 and 76 finished 6-over-par, seven shots off a qualifying place.

At Dunbar, local player Grant Forrest shot 67 and 65 for an 8-under-par aggregate and was joined in The Open field by Indian Shiv Kapur and Australian John Wade, who finished a stroke behind.

“I played very solid,” said Forrest, who has just finished his first year at the University of San Diego and will be representing his country in next week’s European Team Championship in Denmark.

“I still can’t believe I have made it to Muirfield. It was my first attempt at qualifying, so I didn’t really know what to expect – it’s a great feeling to get through,” he added.

There were also amateur winners at Gullane and North Berwick. In the former England international Ben Stow, from Salisbury, had rounds of 72 and 68 for a 2-under-par total that pushed Sheffield’s 18-year-old Matthew Fitzpatrick, last year’s Boys’ Amateur champion, and Swede Oscar Floren into second place.

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