PLAYERS coming off the back of confidence-boosting performances in both amateur and professional events will be looking to figure prominently when the scramble for Open Championship spots starts in earnest in Edinburgh today.
Bruntsfield Links stages one of 13 Regional Qualifiers in the UK and Ireland, the 18-hole shoot-outs offering spots in next week’s new-look Final Qualifying stage, which includes a Scottish event at Glasgow Gailes.
With next month’s Claret Jug joust at Royal Liverpool the ultimate target, 90 hopefuls are due to set out in the Capital, where the line-up contains its usual eclectic mix – one of the event’s attractions.
While it is difficult to pick out favourites in short sprints in golf, Elliot Saltman will surely be feeling quietly confident about his hopes of progressing today, when an estimated 15 spots should be on offer.
Not only has the Archerfield Links man played in two of the last five Opens – Turnberry in 2009 and Royal Lytham three years later – he is also heading into this test in good fettle following four top tens on the PGA EuroPro Tour this season.
Saltman, who closed with a 65 to force his way into a play-off in the latest event at Cumberwell Park last Friday, is being joined at Bruntsfield Links by his youngest brother, Zack.
Both will be aiming to join Lloyd, the third of the siblings, who is exempt, into the final stage – it is taking place at Hillside, Sunningdale New and Woburn as well as Glasgow Gailes next Tuesday – after he qualified for last year’s event at Muirfield. Like the oldest of the Saltmans, Connor Syme will bound on to the first tee today – he is due to strike the opening blow at 8am – with a spring in his step after the Dumfries & County teenager reached the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush on Saturday.
The two-times Scottish Schools’ champion has made an excellent recovery from the broken ankle he suffered during a family holiday last year and is among a posse of amateurs bidding to emulate Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest after he qualified in East Lothian last summer.
They also include Meldrum House man Chris Robb, another Scottish qualifier for the match-play phase at Royal Portrush last week, as well as Dollar’s Scott Borrowman, Graeme Robertson (Glenbervie) and James Bunch of Prestwick.
Former PGA champion Andrew Oldcorn, who won last year’s event with a three-under-par 68, has not entered this time around, but second-placed Ian Redford (St Andrews New) is back for another crack. So, too, is Dalmahoy director of golf Alan Tait, who also safely negotiated this stage 12 months ago.
Others capable of taking that first step towards a golfing fairytale in just over three weeks’ time include on-form Neil Fenwick (Dunbar), Kirkhill’s Paul Shields and new Paul Lawrie Golf Centre recruit Greg McBain, who staged a strong finish in last week’s Northern Open at Murcar Links.
Adding to the interest for Bruntsfield Links members is the presence of three host club players – Stuart McLaren, Ross Brydon and Keith MacKenzie, the latter trying to progress at the club where his father, Brian, served as the long-time professional.
Other Scottish hopefuls have headed to Northumberland Golf Club on the outskirts of Newcastle, while the scramble is also taking place at Buckinghamshire, Clitheroe, East Sussex National, Hankley Common, Little Aston, Luffenham Heath, Mere, Moortown, Remedy Oak, The Island and The London.