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Oldcorn unhappy at changes to Open exemption

Andrew Oldcorn has revealed he considered taking legal advice after being informed by the Royal and Ancient, the organisers of the Open, that the original four-year exemption he was handed to play in the world's oldest championship for winning the 2001 Volvo PGA had been cut to three.

Instead of automatically looking forward to the Open at Royal Troon in July, Oldcorn will now have to take part in international qualifying at Sunningdale. The Edinburgh golfer has already made a trip south to reacquaint himself with both courses at Sunningdale and insists he's more determined than ever to be part of the biggest tournament of the year in Scotland.

"I felt particularly peeved the R&A took away the last year of my exemption for the Open," admitted the golfer. "There have been changes to the structure of the qualifying process. When I received the entry form for Troon I discovered that my four-year exemption was cut to three. I was extremely disappointed because I'd just taken it for granted that I was exempt for Troon.

"Apparently the R&A had a meeting with the European Tour and the PGA Tour in America and decided to cut the exemptions from four years to three for winning the Volvo PGA at Wentworth and the Players Championship at Sawgrass. These exemptions were whittled down in order to create more spots for players to qualify at the various international qualifying events.

"For me, though, once an exemption has been published, then that's what it should mean. It would be fairer if the change had applied from this season. It didn't seem right you could be given an exemption with one hand and have it taken away with the other.

"Knowing that the 2004 Open is at Troon, I can tell you I will have a burning ambition in qualifying to prove a point to myself and to the R&A. They are putting on these international qualifying events for players around the world, but I don't see the United States Golf Association staging a qualifying event here for the US Open. It's totally lopsided.

"I even contemplated having my legal people look at it, but after further discussions with Peter Dawson and Michael Tait at the R&A it became clear there was no possibility of a change of mind. So that was that."

The highest-placed Scot at Royal St George's - he finished 28th - Oldcorn endured a disappointing year and made scheduling mistakes he won't repeat in 2004. His season was hampered by illness and when he returned to fitness he fell into the trap of trying to make up for lost time by adding in extra events. Due to celebrate his 44th birthday in March, it's a mistake the Bolton-born Scot won't repeat in his 20th year on Tour.

"There's no hiding the fact that I was very disappointed with last season. I was ill for a spell and missed five events around the PGA. I then played a schedule after the Open which was far too much for me. Regardless of what happens in 2004, I'm going to stick to my original schedule.

"I was quite pleased with the way I played at the qualifying event for the PGA Tour in America and only missed out by a shot. I'm making a small technical change in my take-away and while that's working well on the range I've still to take it onto the golf course. I've also seen someone on the psychology side of the game and find myself really looking forward to the new season after a couple of poor years."

Only able to practice at King's Acre, near Edinburgh, for half-an-hour yesterday because of the cold weather, Oldcorn's first events of the new year will be in South Africa next month where, ironically, he'll be taking plenty of hats and sunscreen to avoid the sunstroke which forced his withdrawal from a tournament the last time he competed in the southern hemisphere.

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