R&A certain Musselburgh fit for Open qualifying

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THE R&A has scotched ­rumours that it had put ­Luffness New on standby for this year’s Open Championship qualifying over fears about the condition of ­Musselburgh.

While the Monktonhall course has been hit by the same amount of rain as just about every other layout in the country, it appears there is no concern about it being in tip-top condition for the 36-hole qualifier on 2 July.

“Members of our championship team were there in December, but they didn’t get a chance to see the course properly as it was mostly under snow,” said a spokesman for the R&A.

“The next meeting is in March, so we will be keeping an eye on things, but, at the moment, we don’t envisage any problems at Musselburgh in terms of it staging a local final qualifying event.”

It is the first time that Musselburgh has been used as a final qualifier, although the James Braid-designed course successfully staged the Scottish regional qualifier until two years ago.

Gullane No 1, North Berwick and Dunbar are also set to stage final qualifying this summer, when hopefuls will be aiming to follow in the spikemarks of players like Steve Elkington.

In 2002, the last time the Open Championship was staged at Muirfield, Elkington came through the qualifier at Dunbar before coming close to claiming the Claret Jug as the Australian lost out in a four-man play-off to Ernie Els.

This year’s Open is the last time the traditional format will be used for local final qualifying. Starting next year, four venues around Britain – Glasgow Gailes has been chosen in Scotland – will replace the courses which are currently selected for their proximity to the Open venue.

Bruntsfield Links stages the Scottish regional qualifying for the third time this year on 24 June, when Northumberland Golf Club in Newcastle takes over from Goswick as the venue in the North-East of England.

l Scotland moved into a tie for the lead with Australia after the second round of the Ten Nations Cup in South Africa.

Lundin’s James White birdied four of his last six holes, but his 67 fell one stroke short of giving Scotland the outright lead.

Glenbervie’s Graeme Robertson (69) and Balmore’s Fraser McKenna (71) produced the other counting scores for Scotland’s 207.