Justin Leonard, the defending champion, is one of the record entry of 2336 players for this year’s Open Championship which will be played at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, on July 16 - 19. The total represents a 9.5% increase on the previous record of 2133 set at Royal Troon last year.
In winning at Royal Troon when aged 25, Leonard became the youngest champion since Seve Ballesteros in 1979 and joins ten other former champions in the field; Tom Lehman, John Daly, Nick Price, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Mark Calcavecchia, Sandy Lyle, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, the winner for the first time in 1959 and now about to compete in his 43rd Open.
“The size and quality of the field again reflects the world-wide popularity of the Open,” said Sir Michael Bonallack, Secretary of the R & A.
“This is underlined by the entry of 49 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and with 20% of the players coming from overseas confirms the universal appeal of the Championship.”
Due to the size of the entry the R & A have added Ormskirk Golf Club to the 15 existing venues which will be used for Regional Qualifying on Monday, July 6. One of the 16 venues, being used for the first time, is County Louth in Ireland which has attracted 63 competitors, a figure which fully justifies its addition to the Qualifying rota.
Competitors from each of the 16 Regional Qualifying venues will be aiming to progress to Final Qualifying at four courses where 480 players will be attempting to secure one of the 156 starting places at Royal Birkdale. A total of 304 players are exempt from Regional Qualifying only while over 100 players will ultimately be exempt from both Regional and Final Qualifying.