TWO years after sealing an Open Championship debut with his last throw of the dice – he gained a spot through finishing joint-third in the Scottish Open – Scott Jamieson is heading to Muirfield in a fortnight’s time for another crack at the Claret Jug.
While pride of place in yesterday’s International Final Qualifier at Sunningdale undoubtedly went to man of the moment, Brooks Koepka – the 23-year-old American followed up his Scottish Challenge victory in Aviemore on Sunday by topping the leaderboard again – Jamieson also secured one of just nine spots up for grabs.
The 29-year-old, who’d gone a bit quiet after starting his season with a first European Tour win as well as finishing second and third in his opening three events, made a timely return to form by following a morning 71 on the New Course with a four-under 66 on the Old Course at the Surrey venue.
Jamieson, who finished in a tie for seventh with Swede Niclas Fasth, said: “I thought two-under was going to be okay and I was in the process of making a bogey when I realised it was, but then I three-putted the next as well.
“However, I got a nice eagle on 14, which made it realistic again. I then had a great up and down from 120 yards on 17 and a birdie at the last.”
Savouring his reward, the East Kilbride man, who recently became a member of the Renaissance Club, which is next door to this year’s Open venue, added: “I’ve played Muirfield a couple of times and it’s a great course.”
Given that he lives closer to there than any other player in yesterday’s field, it must have been heartbreaking for Cockburnspath’s David Drysdale to miss out in a four-man play-off for the one remaining spot up for grabs after finishing one-under.
The former Dunbar assistant professional, who played as a marker with John Daly in the 1992 Open in East Lothian, dropped out at the first before Argentine Estanislao Goya, Carly Booth’s boyfriend, went on to claim the final spot at the expense of England’s Ross Fisher and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares.
Maintaining his remarkable form, Koepka, who was forced to catch a dawn flight from Inverness to make his mid-morning tee time after a rain-hit final round in Aviemore, shot rounds of 69 and 65, to finish a shot ahead of England’s Oliver Fisher while Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, Northern Irishman Gareth Maybin and England’s Richard McEvoy were the other qualifiers.
It means that, as things stand, Jamieson will be flying the home flag at Muirfield along with two former champions, Sandy Lyle and Paul Lawrie, as well as Richie Ramsay, who gained his exemption through finishing in the top 30 in last season’s Race to Dubai.
However, there’s still a round of Local Final Qualifiers to come in East Lothian next Tuesday and an eclectic mix of Scots will be involved in those following yesterday’s round of 14 regional qualifiers around Britain and Ireland.
Edinburgh’s Andrew Oldcorn, for instance, has given himself the chance to secure a return to one of the game’s main stages at the age of 53 after the former PGA champion upstaged a field mainly made up of players half his age by winning the event at Bruntsfield Links with a three-under-par 68.
“I’ve not played in The Open since 2005 and, in truth, it’s well past me now,” admitted the Kings Acre player after overcoming some early rust to produce a flawless effort in the capital. “But, when it’s on your doorstep, you’ve got to give it a go.”
With his dad – the former Dundee United midfielder – on the bag, St Andrews New youngster Ian Redford finished as Oldcorn’s challenger after a battling 69. “I’m desperate to play in The Open. It would be a dream come true,” admitted Redford Jnr.
As it would be at the age of 43 for Alan Tait, the man who once shot 64 at Carnoustie but plays little competitive golf these days and has a microphone in his hands more than a putter as an after-dinner speaker.
Tait, the director of golf at Marriott Dalmahoy, started and finished with a bogey but had three birdies in between those mistakes as he finished in a tie for third in a group that also included former Scottish amateur champion Michael Stewart.
“I only play three times per month these days but I live in South Queensferry and, with The Open at Muirfield, I decided to give it a go on my day off,” said a delighted Tait.
Graham Rankin, a member of the 1999 Walker Cup-winning side at Nairn, was among the players to survive a 13-man play-off for the last seven spots up for grabs, while down on the outskirts of Newcastle Paul McKechnie (Braid Hills Golf Centre) won the qualifier at Northumberland, where Zack Saltman (Archerfield Links) and Cawder’s Chris Kelly also progressed.
The draws for the LFQs are set to be finalised today, with the likelihood that Colin Montgomerie will be in the field at Gullane, though that has still to be confirmed.