Asian Tour — Niall Turner will be dreaming of winning a place in The Open at Royal Birkdale when he returns to action after a five-month layoff in the $1m SMBC Singapore Open on Thursday.
Now fighting fit again after overcoming a long-time hip injury, Turner will be bidding to finish as one of the top four players in the top-12 and ties, who are not already exempt, who will earn places in the game’s oldest major from July 16-23.
“The course is great and the greens are quickest I’ve ever putted on,” Turner said of Sentosa Golf Club. “The weather has been really nice, not too hot yet. The jet lag has been awful this week but I’m starting to feel normal again!”
Turner is joined in the field by one man who doesn’t need an exemption for Royal Birkdale in two time Open champion Ernie Els.
The South African is the biggest name in the field alongside Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia, but with Tiger Woods returning to action at Torrey Pines in California next week, he admits that the current crop of top players should be thankful to the American.
“Certainly based on the US tour, we wouldn’t be playing for the money we are playing for if it wasn't for him," Els told reporters.
"It can only be good if he plays well when he comes back because there's going to be more spectators around the world getting fired up about the game.
“Some of the youngsters are playing great golf, so it would be great to see if Tiger can get in the mix at some of these big events and create even more of a buzz.”
On the new generation of stars, Els added: “These young guys come out and manage their game in a very smart way. Certainly Jordan (Spieth) and Justin Thomas seem to do it right now.
“That is a big help for young guys if they play with a wise old head on their shoulders and all that firepower."
Els, Garcia and Scott are already exempt for The Open as are Yuta Ikeda, Matthew Griffin, Hideto Tanihara and Ashley Hall.
In the event of a tie for a qualifying place, the player with the higher ranking in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) at the beginning of the week commencing 16 January will be awarded a place in The 146th Open.