Just eight Irish seek Open spots

Paul Dunne has had a good year so far but qualifying for The Open on Tuesday would be special. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ie

Eight Irishmen will pursue their Open Championship dream by joining the scramble for 12 golden tickets for Hoylake at four Final Qualifying venues on Tuesday. 

But another eight Irish tour players have opted to make the €3 million Alstom Open de France their priority rather tee it up at Sunningdale New, Gailes Links, Hillside and Woburn with just three spots on offer at each of the four Final Qualifying venues.

Ireland will have at least five men at Royal Liverpool in a fortnight with the exempt Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Pádraig Harrington joined by Shane Lowry on Sunday after the Offaly man sealed his place via the Race to Dubai standings.

But while it might seem strange that none of Ireland’s tour players has tried to come through today’s cavalry charge, the new Open Qualifying Series introduced this year is a far more appetising prospect for the likes of Michael Hoey, David Higgins, Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie, Kevin Phelan, Paul McGinley, Simon Thornton and Gareth Maybin.

“Not to be negative about it but, unfortunately,  if you haven’t earned it or played your way in, your game isn’t good enough,” said Hoey, who can still make The Open if he is one of the top three not already qualified to finish in the Top-10 at this weeks’ Open de France or next week’s Scottish Open.

Banbridge’s Richard Kilpatrick, Rathmore's Alan Dunbar and Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee will tee it up at Hillside with Muskerry’s Niall Turner and Greystones amateur Paul Dunne — fresh from his heroics for Europe in their Palmer Cup win on Saturday —  in action at Woburn.

The Island’s David Rawluk is the only Irish entrant at Sunningdale New while at Gailes Links in Scotland, Royal Dublin’s Patrick Devine and Waterville’s Mark Murphy will try their luck.

Higgins and Lowry were among the entrants for Tuesday’s qualifiers but while Lowry made The Open by remaining among the top five non-exempt players in the Top 20 in the Race to Dubai on Sunday, Higgins withdrew when he clinched his place in the field in Paris this week.

The Kerryman can still qualify for The Open with a brilliant finish at Le Golf National on Sunday night. But as he bids to regain full playing rights, a Top-10 finish worth a minimum of €60,000 is clearly a bigger priority than a 72-man battle for three places in The Open.