Irishman David Carey caps dream spell by securing spot in 150th Open

Talk about a memorable few days. David Carey turned 26 on Saturday, walked the hallowed turf of the Old Course at St Andrews for the first time on Sunday and will be back there in a fortnight’s time to play in the 150th Open.

Happy quartet Robert Dinwiddie, Lars Van Miejel, Alex Wrigley and David Carey celebrate securing spots in the 150th Open through Final Qualifying at Fairmont St Andrews. Picture: R&A
Happy quartet Robert Dinwiddie, Lars Van Miejel, Alex Wrigley and David Carey celebrate securing spots in the 150th Open through Final Qualifying at Fairmont St Andrews. Picture: R&A
Happy quartet Robert Dinwiddie, Lars Van Miejel, Alex Wrigley and David Carey celebrate securing spots in the 150th Open through Final Qualifying at Fairmont St Andrews. Picture: R&A

Booking his berth in the milestone event in style, the Dubliner holed a 50-footer for a birdie at his 36th and last hole of the day at Fairmont St Andrews in one of four Final Qualifying events for the season’s final major.

With rounds of 68 and 69 in testing conditions, Carey finished on seven-under-par to comfortably claim top spot at the Fife venue, where the other places up for grabs in the Claret Jug joust went to English duo Robert Dinwiddie and Alex Wrigley and Dutchman Lars Van Miejel.

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“Yeah, very happy,” said the soft-spoken Carey, who certainly stood out in his emerald green top and bright red breeks. “It was a long day, especially with the rain and wind there this afternoon. I was just trying to stay patient and do the simple things.

“I’ve been playing well the last few weeks. I’ve had a lot of solid scores without anything amazing, so I felt like I had been close to a really good week.”

Having spent the winter practising in Florida and playing mainly on the Alps Tour this season, Carey admitted his biggest challenge had been adapting to a seaside test.

“I know this is a shocking admission by someone from Ireland, but I haven’t actually played a links course in about two years,” he said. “So, when I got here and saw it was quite soft, I was happy as it was a little more familiar to me.”

Like defending champion Collin Morikawa, Carey will be playing the Old Course for the first time when he joins an Irish contingent that will be headed by former winners Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry.

“I’m very big on my golf history, so I have been saying to everybody for the last three months that I wanted to play in the 150th Open at St Andrews, so this is special,” he admitted, smiling. “It’s my first one, so a good place to start.

“I went to the Old Course for the first time yesterday and walked around the first, second, 17th and 18th. I just had a look around the place and that was maybe the extra inspiration for me. That was the first time I’d seen it and it is so cool to be able to walk it and see the stands and just look at everything.”

Though a two-putt would still have seen him top the leaderboard, Carey certainly enjoyed seeing his monster effort drop into the hole at the last.

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“I knew that two of us were on -6 and the next were on -3,” said the man who cut his golfing teeth at The Hermitage but has played most of his golf in recent years at Carton House.

“I always take the flag out but, on this occasion, decided to leave it thinking it might help and it barely got there before dropping in. That was a good bonus to finish. I think it was more a feeling of relief than a celebration as it was job done.”

On a day that delivered disappointment for a 27-strong Scottish contingent across the four venues, there was joy for a Dumfries-born player as Dinwiddie secured his second Open appearance at St Andrews and third in total.

The 39-year-old, who was brought up in Durham, now lives in Wandsworth and plays under the English flag, carded solid rounds of 71 and 70 to finish as Carey’s closest challenger on three-under, one ahead of 2022 Scottish Open champion Rai (72-70).

“To play in any Open at St Andrews is special but for The 150th that is extremely special,” said Dunwiddie, who missed the cut at the home of golf in 2015 then again two years later at Royal Birkdale. “It’s been a few years since I have played in an event like this and it’s really nice to have another go at it.”

As an amateur, Dunwiddie won the Scottish Stroke-Play Championship in 2005 before tasting success again north of the border two years later, this time as a professional in the Scottish Challenge.

“After not having a whole lot of success over the last few years, it’s nice,” he added of his achievement. “I’m trying to keep my game as sharp as I can but, not practising nearly as much as I would have, it’s really nice to get in and have a go again.”

Out of nowhere late in the day, Hartlepool man Wrigley forced his way into a play-off with a second-round 69, finding himself up against Van Miejel and 2022 Scottish Open champion Aaron Rai in a battle for the final two spots.

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Rai was back at the venue where he finished third in the 2020 Axa Championship, but the Englishman suffered disappointment on this occasion after his hopes of making it to the Old Course were dashed by a bogey at the first extra hole.

Seventeen-year-old Nairn amateur Calum Scot and Bradley Neil, who played in the 2014 Open as the Amateur champion, fared best among the home contingent at Fairmont St Andrews, tying for seventh on level-par.

Elsewhere, Danny Kay agonisingly missed out in a play-off at St Annes Old Links, where 1985 winner Sandy Lyle’s bid to play in one final Open at the age of 64 last just 18 holes as a hamstring problem led to his withdrawal at the halfway stage.

As things stand, Paul Lawrie and Bob MacIntyre are the only Scots in the St Andrews field, though spots are up for grabs in both the Irish Open and Scottish Open over the next two weeks, as well as in the John Deere Classic and the Barbasol Championship on the PGA Tour.

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