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R&A defend changes to Open qualification

The Royal and Ancient has defended the introduction of international qualifying for next summer’s Open at Troon against charges it will strip the romance out of the game’s oldest major championship.

While the fairytale successes of Rich Been, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel have injected more romance into the majors than even Barbara Cartland would dare, the R&A was at pains to explain why the reduction in the number of places available at local final qualifying would not disadvantage top class amateurs and local professionals who dream of testing their skills against the best.

"By introducing five international final qualifying (IFQ) competitions throughout the world, we will make it easier for world ranked players who might not otherwise be exempt, to attempt to qualify for the Open" said Michael Tate, the assistant secretary of the R&A.

"We have analysed data from recent championships and concluded that most world ranked players will opt to play in one of the IFQs, leaving the LFQs for players with less or no world ranking points. In fact it may be easier for amateurs and club professionals to gain one of the exempt places from LFQ."

IFQ competitions will be played in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe and America with a 36-hole qualifier for Troon at the Atlantic Beach golf club in Cape Town, South Africa, starting the ball rolling in January.

Kingston Heath Golf Club in Melbourne hosts the next IFQ on 19 and 20 January and the Asian qualifier at Saujana Golf & Country Club, Kuala Lumpur will be on 30 and 31 March.

Each of the first three IFQ's will have a minimum of four spots in the 2004 Open while there will be at least 12 places available at the European and American IFQ’s. The European qualifier will be played over Sunningdale Old and New Courses on 28 June, the same day as the American IFQ on the Gold and Blue courses at Congressional, near Washington.

Regional qualifying will be retained at 16 venues and local final qualifying will still take place at Glasgow Gailes, Irvine, Turnberry Kintyre and Western Gailes on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 July. A total of 12 places will be available from LFQ.


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