Australia’s Ashley Hall, Cameron Smith and Aaron Baddeley secured their places in The Open after qualifying at the Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club.
The 101st playing of Australia’s most prestigious championship served as the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale which will be played from 16-23 July, 2017. The Series offers 44 places in golf’s most international major at leading Tour events across the globe.
Hall and Smith finished on 12-under-par alongside Jordan Spieth, but were pipped by the world No 5 in a three-man playoff. It was the second time in three years that Spieth, who had already secured his place at Royal Birkdale, lifted the historic Stonehaven Cup.
Hall, who closed with a six-under-par 66, will return to the North West of England for a second start in The Open after making his major debut at Royal Lytham in 2012. The 33-year-old Victorian has earned three wins on the PGA Tour of Australasia, most recently at the Victorian PGA Championship in February.
“It’s great. I love Birkdale,” said Hall. “I played The Amateur there in 2005, so nothing new to me. I qualified in the International Final Qualifying for The Open in 2012 when it was at Lytham, so I actually played Birkdale that week as well, so it’s going to be fun to play there again.
“It’s one of my favourite tournaments, The Open, so knowing you’re in this far out is kind of nice. For Australians, it’s on television at a good time, with the time difference. It comes on seven, eight o’clock at night, so you watch it a lot,” he added.
Queenslander Smith will make his Open debut next summer at Royal Birkdale after also closing out the tournament with a 66. The 23-year-old enjoyed a memorable amateur career that saw him win the Australian Boys and Australian Amateur titles before turning professional in 2013. He tied fourth in the US Open in 2015 before earning a string of top-20 finishes on the PGA TOUR.
“It’s the only major I haven’t played in yet, so I’m keen to get over there,” Smith said. “That’s the one with all the history. I’m looking forward to getting over there to see what I can do. I actually played with (R&A Deputy Championship Committee Chairman Peter Cowell) earlier in the tournament at the Pro-Am and so I guess that was kind of an omen.”
Baddeley, 35, closed with a one-under-par 71 and edged out fellow Australians Rod Pampling, Jason Scrivener, third-round leader Geoff Ogilvy and Kiwi Ryan Fox by virtue of his higher position in the Official World Golf Ranking. The dual Australian-American citizen has earned four PGA TOUR victories and has made seven previous starts at The Open.
“It’s super exciting. I wasn’t in any of the majors starting the year so being able to plan that I’m going to Birkdale is pretty exciting,” said Baddeley.
“I haven’t played my best golf (on links courses), but I definitely enjoy it. I think this year I’ll be ready for going over there because my game is in very good shape. I think preparing the way I’m preparing for tournaments, I’m pretty excited to get over there early and be ready.
“It’s a different style of golf. I remember talking to Greg Norman about it. He was saying to just remember that the golf is designed to be played on the ground with links golf. It’s also the atmosphere and the fans, they really understand good shots. You might hit it to 30 feet but it’s a really, really good shot because of where the wind is and everything like that. The fans at The Open understand that over there. It has such a unique atmosphere so I’m just super excited.”