Trio earn invitations to Open
Steve Lowery is going to theOpen, after all.
Lowery's second-place finish at the Cialis Western Open on Sunday earned him an exemption to golf's oldest championship. Rory Sabbatini and Frank Lickliter II also got exemptions to the British, which will be played July 15-18 at Royal Troon.
"I didn't try to qualify ... and I wasn't planning on going," Lowery said. "Last year, I didn't play and I finished second to Craig Stadler at the B.C. Open, so my plans were to go play there because I have good memories from last year.
"This obviously has changed it," he said. "I'll probably withdraw out of some of these tournaments and go play the British Open."
Lowery has only played the British Open once before, finishing in a tie for 79th in 1995. He didn't even know a spot at the British was up for grabs Sunday -- or that his putt on the 18th hole was the determining factor.
Players used to have to travel to Europe for qualifying tournaments, usually held the Monday before the British Open begins. But in an effort to give more players a chance to play their way in, there are now several qualifiers worldwide, as well as a special money list.
Using earnings from The Players Championship and the five most recent tournaments -- the Memorial Tournament, the Buick Classic, the U.S. Open, the Booz Allen Classic and the Cialis Western Open -- the top two players who didn't already have exemptions qualified. Sabbatini ($923,787) and Lickliter ($560,743) began the week at the top of the list, and stayed there. Sabbatini didn't play in the Cialis Western Open, while Lickliter missed the cut.
The third spot went to the top finisher at the Cialis Western Open not otherwise exempt: Lowery.
But Lowery needed to make an 8-footer to save par on the 18th and retain sole possession of second place. If he missed, it would have created a three-way tie for second with Luke Donald and Mark Hensby. Donald had the low round at 67, so the British spot would have gone to him.
Donald qualified last Monday at the Congressional, but an exemption supersedes the qualifier. So Donald's qualifying spot would then have passed to Tom Byrum, the first alternate.
"I saw that I needed to make that putt to get sole second, and that's really the only thing -- I wasn't thinking about the British Open thing at all," Lowery said. "I knew if I made that I'd be in sole second, so I was happy to knock that putt in."
One last spot in the British Open field will be awarded next week at the John Deere Classic to the top finisher not otherwise exempt.
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