The Open: Martin Laird to boost Scots numbers

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MARTIN Laird is virtually guaranteed to join seven fellow Scots in the Open Championship at Muirfield after it emerged that at least eight spots are likely to be filled off the reserve list.

The 30-year-old is not in the field at present, having finished outside the top 30 in last season’s FedEx Cup then missing out in the US International Final Qualifier in Texas in May.

Another door was closed on Laird when he dropped out of contention for the five spots up for grabs for non-exempt players in the top 20 on the PGA Tour after this week’s Greenbrier Classic.

However, only a dramatic drop in the world rankings when the latest list is published on Monday will prevent the Scot from making a fifth successive appearance in the Claret Jug joust.

As things stand, 136 spots in the 156-man field have been filled, with 12 more up for grabs through pre-set exemptions. In addition to the five on the PGA Tour, the same number are on offer for non-exempt players in the top 20 in the Race to Dubai after this week’s French Open, while the winners of both the Scottish Open and John Deere Classic also get spots.

That leaves eight to be taken up from reserves off the world rankings and 54th-ranked Laird is currently sitting fourth on that list behind American trio Steve Stricker (11th), Billy Horschel (35th) and Russell Henley (51st). South African Richard Sterne (56th), American Boo Weekley (57th), Dane Thomas Bjorn (58th) and Swede Freddie Jacobsen (61st) are also in line for Muirfield berths.

Meanwhile, Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest will have six rivals for the Silver Medal, the prize for leading amateur, with English quartet Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jimmy Mullen, Garrick Porteous and Ben Stow as well as Welshman Rhys Pugh and American Steven Fox also having secured spots.

HERE’S how things stand with the Muirfield line-up:

• 136 of 156 spots are filled

• 5 spots can be filled off the PGA Tour on Sunday

• 5 can also be filled off the European Tour on Sunday

• The Scottish Open and John Deere Classic winners both get spots

• The remainder come off the Official World Rankings