Richie Ramsay and David Drysdale secured both career-best pay-days and Open Championship spots after producing rousing last-round performances as Spaniard Jon Rahm swept to an impressive victory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart.
Rahm will enter next week’s 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale as one of the favourites after closing with a 65 for a tournament-record 24 under par, finishing six shots ahead of Ramsay and Englishman Matthew Southgate.
Ramsay’s closing 65 earned him the first of three spots up for grabs in the season’s third major, with Drysdale carding a course-record 63 as he also claimed a berth after a nervous few hours.
It had seemed as though the 42-year-old was going to come up short, but American Daniel Im bogeyed the last to see Drysdale progress by virtue of a higher world ranking along with Kiwi Ryan Fox.
The double success increases the Scottish contingent at Birkdale to seven after Ramsay and Drysdale joined former winners Sandy Lyle and Paul Lawrie, as well as Russell Knox, Martin Laird and amateur Connor Syme in the Lancashire line-up.
Lawrie, Lyle and Knox, who gets in through being in the world’s top 50, were set to fly the Saltire just over a week ago before Laird qualified in the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour last weekend then Syme shared top spot in one of the final qualifiers at Gailes Links on Tuesday. Ramsay, who picked up a cheque for close to £470,000, will be making his seventh Open Championship appearance after producing his best peformance since recording a third European Tour triumph in the Hassan Trophy in Morocco in 2015.
“The Open is a special event and it’s going to be fantastic,” said the Edinburgh-based Aberdonian. “Royal Birkdale really suits me and I love playing there. I remember playing at the Amateur there and it’s just a great set-up.
“You want to test your game against the best players in the world and I was fortunate enough to do that this week. It’s going to be even better at the Open and the way I’m playing at the moment, who knows.”
Drysdale, who eagled the fourth before finishing with that spectacular birdie burst, has only played once before in the Claret Jug joust, making the cut at Turnberry in 2009. Drysdale said: “It’s amazing. I regard The Open as the biggest and best championship on the planet and you only want to play in the biggest and best events. I haven’t played Royal Birkdale so I’m looking forward to playing there in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Rahm will be heading to the Southport venue with a real spring in his step after securing a second success in just his 25th event as a professional, the latest one set to see the 22-year-old climb into the world’s top ten. The biggest danger to the Spaniard came in the shape of a possible penalty for incorrectly replacing his ball on the sixth green, but after being cleared of any wrongdoing by chief referee Andy McFee on the 13th, Rahm promptly holed from 30 feet for an eagle on the next.
Rahm, who only turned professional in June last year but claimed his first PGA Tour title at Torrey Pines in January, said: “The trophy is right next to me and my name is going to be there forever, but it seems hard to believe that it’s happened. I look at it and I see Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam, Seve (Ballesteros). That’s a list of the greatest European Tour players ever and to have my name next to it, and the last one, Rory McIlroy, it’s so special.”