Ryan Fox, Andy Sullivan and Zander Lombard secured their places in The 147th Open at Carnoustie after a dramatic final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation at Ballyliffin.
The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open was the ninth event in The Open Qualifying Series, giving the leading three non-exempt players who finished in the top ten and ties the chance to earn places at Carnoustie from 15-22 July 2018.
Fox was to be denied a first European Tour title after Scotland’s Russell Knox, who was already exempt for The Open, defeated the New Zealander on the first hole of a sudden death play-off. Both players had finished level and tied for first place on 14-under-par, a total of 274, following the conclusion of 72 holes.
The 31-year-old from Auckland carded an eagle and four birdies on his way to a final round 68, four-under-par, to qualify for The Open in Ireland for the second year running after his fourth place finish at Portstewart in 2017.
“I really enjoy playing in The Open and Carnoustie is one of the best courses in the world. I’m excited to get there and a little bit nervous to see how it plays but I’m very much looking forward to it.” – Ryan Fox
The second and third qualifying spots were secured by Sullivan and Lombard after they finished in a tie for sixth place on nine-under-par, a total of 279, alongside exempt players Thorbjorn Olesen and Danny Willett.
Sullivan, who qualified for The Open at St Andrews in 2015 by winning the Joburg Open, rolled in crucial back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th holes during a final round 69 to ensure he joins the starting field at Carnoustie in little over a week.
His best finish in The Open came two years ago at Royal Troon when he finished in a tie for twelfth place, the last time he appeared in golf’s original championship.
South African Lombard will also return to The Open for the first time since 2016 after shooting a three-under-par round of 69 to take the final qualifying place.
The 23-year-old made birdie on the 4th during a bogey-free front nine and surged up the leaderboard with three birdies in four holes after the turn to secure his place among the world’s best golfers at Carnoustie.
“It’s every golfer’s dream to play in a major,” said Lombard. “I played at Royal Troon in 2016 by qualifying at the Joburg Open and it was amazing. It’s what we play for, to play in the best majors.
“I know Carnoustie well and I’m really looking forward to getting over to Scotland to see what the course is like after some hot weather. I think it will be a great test. The history of Carnoustie is so rich and some of the world’s greatest players have won there.”