McGrane and Higgins chasing Open spots in Joburg
    Damien McGrane is just two shots behind the leaders after an opening 66 in the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club, Gauteng, South Africa. Picture: David Lloyd /  www.golffile.ie

 Damien McGrane is just two shots behind the leaders after an opening 66 in the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club, Gauteng, South Africa. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

Damien McGrane has played in two Open Championships but he could be on course to make his third appearance at Royal Liverpool in July after opening with a five under 66 in the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington in South Africa.

Three players, who have not already qualified and who finish in the top ten at the Joburg Open, will secure places in The Open. Scores

 Just one bogey on the card for David Higgins as he opens with a 68 (-3) in the Joburg Open. Picture: David Lloyd /  www.golffile.ie

Just one bogey on the card for David Higgins as he opens with a 68 (-3) in the Joburg Open. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

And McGrane is handily place just a stroke outside the top ten after following an early bogey with six birdies on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington to share 15th place on five under.

Scotland’s Craig Lee shot 64 on the East Course as his compatriot Alastair Forsyth, Italy’s Edoardo Molinari and home favourite Justin Walters all signed for seven under rounds of 64 on the West in a the tournament which sees the field play both tracks before heading to the East Course for the weekend.

“You don't really change your strategy, but it's a great reward for three lucky guys who'll get a chance to play in The Open,” said Lee, who is yet to play in one of the game’s four Majors.

“It's nice to have qualifiers throughout the year and not just geared up to that 36-hole sprint that most qualifiers are. Hopefully we can keep the game up and take one of those spots.”

Out in the first group of the day on the West Course, Waterville’s David Higgins was among the early pacesetters as he carded four birdies and a bogey in a three under 68 alongside Forsyth on the West Course but ended the day tied for 42nd place.

Waterford’s Kevin Phelan had to settle for a level par 71 on the West which leaves him tied for 118th and in a battle to make the cut.

As for Dubliner Peter Lawrie, his nightmare run of form continued with a four over 76 on the East Course.

Lawrie has missed his last six cuts since he saved his tour card by finishing 18th in the Perth International in Australia last October.

Struggling to compete off the tee having lost his trademark accuracy by being forced to hit more drivers, the 39-year old has made just two cuts from his 16 starts since he finished 10th in the Irish Open at Carton House last year.