DRIVING past Muirfield and seeing tents being put up for the 142nd Open Championship provided the incentive for East Lothian resident Lloyd Saltman to book his berth in the event.
A brace of 68s for a six-under-par 136 total secured one of the three spots on offer at Monktonhall, where Englishman Steven Tiley came close to equalling the course record with a morning 64 as he finished three shots clear of the field.
It will be Saltman’s third appearance in the R&A’s flagship event, having claimed the Silver Medal at St Andrews in 2005 before qualifying again along with his older brother, Elliot, at Turnberry four years ago.
“I’m delighted to be back into The Open and especially Muirfield as I have been driving past every day and watching the stands going up,” said the 28-year-old Archerfield Links player. “All my Open appearances will have been in Scotland and I am very pleased with that.”
Saltman bagged 14 birdies over his two rounds as he progressed along with Tiley and another Englishman, Tyrrell Hatton.
“I stayed patient over the two rounds and also played smart and played away from daft pins. I tried to keep the big numbers off the card,” added the Scot.
“To be playing at Muirfield and just living ten minutes down the road is amazing. I’ve only played there twice before and that’s been in the winter when it’s been freezing and with the ground solid.”
Tiley didn’t put a foot wrong in a morning effort that contained seven birdies, including the last two holes.
The 30-year-old from Canterbury will be making his fourth Open appearance.
Dunbar: Forrest secures major consolation with qualifying win
WHAT a way to make up for the disappointment of missing out on a Scottish Open appearance. Unable to take up a spot on offer to him at Castle Stuart next week, Grant Forrest can look forward to making his debut in the Open Championship instead seven days later.
In winning the Local Final Qualifier at Dunbar, carding rounds of 67 and 65 for an eight-under total of 132, the 20-year-old Craigielaw player booked his spot in an event taking place just over the wall from his family home in Archerfield Estate.
“I played very solidly,” said Forrest, who, as the Scottish Amateur champion, would have earned a spot in next week’s European Tour event in the Highlands, but is now heading for Denmark to compete in Scotland’s six-man side in the European Team Championship.
A closing birdie – his tenth in 36 holes – secured a one-shot victory over Australian John Wade and India’s Shiv Kapur, who secured the other two spots up for grabs at East Links thanks to a 63 and 64 respectively in the afternoon.
“I think I had four or five putts lip out of the hole, but I did have a huge piece of luck at the 17th, where I chunked a chip,” added Forrest, who is halfway through a scholarship at the University of San Diego. “It hit the concrete path over the burn but bounced into a bunker and I got up and down from there. I still can’t believe I’ve made it into Muirfield.”
Wade’s flawless seven-birdie effort equalled the course record – a feat also achieved in the afternoon by Englishman Jason Palmer as he fell a shot shy – while Kapur was also bogey-free second time around after earlier signing for an eagle-3 in an opening 69.
North Berwick: Extra club costs Higgins his shot at play-off glory
FIFER George Murray and Gareth Wright, a Welshman who lives in Edinburgh, savoured play-off joy at North Berwick as the Open dream turned into a nightmare for David Higgins.
The Irishman had secured his place in the three-man shoot-out for the final two spots at West Links, only to be penalised two shots when the European Tour player discovered he had 15 clubs in his bag.
“He put a fairway club in his bag when he finished his round thinking he’d be going home and then he discovered it on the first hole,” said his caddie.
It meant Wright, who’d holed a ten-footer for a birdie-3, and Murray, who made par, both progressed along with the leading qualifier, 19-year-old Devon amateur Jimmy Mullen.
“It’s fantastic to get in my home Open,” said Wright, who, although playing under the Welsh flag, is attached to West Linton and represented Scotland in last year’s PGAs of Europe Championship. “I feel sorry for David, but I can’t wait to make my Open debut.”
Murray is relishing a similar prospect after he eagled the last, driving the green at 288-yard par-4 and rolling in a six-footer, to secure his spot in the play-off and a course-record 64.
“It’s magic to know that I’m playing in The Open – I’m really excited,” he said. At a venue where Dalmahoy’s Jamie McLeary led after a morning 66 but missed out on the play-off after failing to birdie the last, Mullen left the professionals trailing after a pair of 68s.
He said: “It’s special getting into the Open and getting close to all the world’s great players.”
While Will Jones missed out, the Oswestry player produced the shot of the day at the four venues – a hole-in-one with an 8-iron at the 172-yard tenth in his morning round.