Monday, 25 June 2012
Sam Walker  (Getty Images)
Sam Walker (Getty Images)

England’s Sam Walker will finally make his Open Championship debut at Royal Lytham next month after coming through the qualifier at Sunningdale after ten previous attempts.

Walker, who made his first try to qualify 14 years ago when he was 20, finished second to compatriot James Morrison as the 96-strong field battled for ten spots.

"It's been a massive 24 hours for me - I should rush around more often," said the Englishman, who won the Challenge Tour’s Scottish Hydro Challenge, flew back home and then set off at 5am in order to make his tee-off time.

"I'm tired, but it feels amazing and it's going to be fantastic to play. It'll be one of the best things in my life."

Morrison, another who will be making his Open debut, finished eight under after rounds of 63 and 68.

He was up even earlier for a 6.48am start - and that after a disturbed night thanks to his 12 day old son Finley.

"I was fighting a few demons the last few holes," he said, remembering he had finished bogey-bogey to miss out by one last year.

Sparkling though Morrison's first round was, it was bettered by one in the afternoon by Welshman Jamie Donaldson as he made it through with only a single shot to spare.

That 62 equalled the course record which Montgomerie himself matched two years ago.

For Donaldson it will be a second Open, while England's Matthew Baldwin will play his first a month after qualifying for a US Open debut.

He too finished five under, as did compatriot Richard Finch, Spain's Alejandro Cañizares and Australian Marcus Fraser.

Five players - English pair Lee Slattery and Oliver Fisher, Scot Alastair Forsyth, Swede Oscar Floren and Dane Thorbjørn Olesen - were involved in the play-off for the last two places on offer.

Fisher and Floren exited with bogeys at the first extra hole, Olesen qualified with a birdie at the next and then Forsyth missed a three foot par putt on the third which put Slattery through to his second Open.

However, Danny Willett - who beat Fraser in a four-hole play-off for the BMW International Open in Cologne yesterday - missed out by four shots.

After a 9.30pm flight back from Germany, Willett had "a couple of beers" to celebrate his first European Tour victory and did not get to bed until 2am.

But Willett could still qualify through a mini money list which ends this week at the Irish Open. He is just over €100 behind South African Richard Sterne, who missed out himself by one stroke.

Others to miss out included Colin Montgomerie and José María Olazába. 

Montgomerie, who took two strokes too many in a qualifying event for the US Open four weeks ago, came even closer this time but was left needing to hole a bunker shot on the final hole to go into a play-off.

The shot had the length but finished six feet wide, and so the 49 year old was able to add only a level par 70 on the Old Course to his morning three under 66 round the adjoining New.

Olazábal, the Scot's successor as Ryder Cup Captain, was on track to make it when he reached five under after 14 holes, but fell back to one under with rounds of 67 and 71.

Montgomerie could still be part of the Lytham action with a top-five finish at the Open de France or Scottish Open.

The 46-year-old Spaniard, who was also seeking a 21st appearance in The Open, said: "I made a great start, but then had too many putts and when I hit a bad shot on the 16th that was it.

"It's consistency - you have to do it for 18 holes four days in a row." Or in this case, two rounds in a row.


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