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Impending fatherhood is keeping Justin Leonard back home in Texas. (Photo: Getty Images)
Impending fatherhood is keeping Justin Leonard back home in Texas. (Photo: Getty Images)

Notebook: Senden and Romero earn last-minute tickets

Plus, with a baby on the way, 1997 Open champion Justin Leonard reluctantly withdraws; European No. 1 David Howell arrives playing his worst golf of the year; and rising star Nick Dougherty of Liverpool finds himself in a rut.

HOYLAKE, England -- Australian John Senden earned a spot in the Open Championship with his victory at the John Deere Classic on Sunday.

He birdied the 17th hole and saved par on the 18th to beat J.P. Hayes by one stroke. Senden shot a 3-under 68 to finish at 19-under 265 and earn his first PGA Tour victory.

Andres Romero of Argentina also earned a spot at Royal Liverpool as the highest finisher among the top 10 not already eligible from the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. Romero tied for second, two shots behind winner Johan Edfors.

That gives Argentina another entry at Hoylake, where countryman Robert De Vicenzo won in 1967, the last time the Open Championship was held at Royal Liverpool.

LEONARD WITHDRAWS: Justin Leonard, winner of the 1997 Open Championship at Royal Troon, has joined Greg Norman and David Toms in withdrawing from the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

Leonard's wife is expecting their second child and the 34-year-old American has decided to stay at home.

His decision allows England's Simon Khan into the 156-strong field. Khan was the next highest player on the world rankings who had entered the championship.

HOWELL HUNTS FORM: European Tour No. 1 David Howell reckons he is heading toward the Open Championship playing his worst golf for a year or more.

"I'm struggling. I'm just having a bit of a down period," he said Saturday. "I can't hit it straight. Everything's going right. And I'm feeling my right wrist a bit."

Because of that, world No. 10 Howell says he might cut down on how much he practices at Hoylake, even though his game is not where he wants it to be going into the biggest tournament of the season.

"As people have said many times, when you are playing well you can't imagine playing badly and when you are playing badly you can't imagine playing well," he explained. "I've been working on something since the U.S. Open thinking it was the right thing to do. Only time will tell, but at the moment it's causing me problems. It's the worst I've hit the ball for a year or so.

"You've got to take the rough with the smooth, though, and it might click tomorrow."

Howell spent last Monday at Royal Liverpool, so he does not feel the need to overdo it in the final countdown to the championship.

A quarterfinalist in the British Amateur championship there 11 years ago, he will probably just play one full practice round on Tuesday and drop out one of two nine-hole sessions depending on how he feels.

DOUGHERTY IN A RUT: Nick Dougherty had hoped to be playing his first Open Championship close to his Liverpool roots with his confidence high and a Ryder Cup place already secured. It will be very different, though, after the 24-year-old suffered his fifth-successive missed cut on Friday in the Barclays Scottish Open.

Rounds of 73 and 75 sent Dougherty crashing out, and he has to go back to the BMW Championship in May for the last time he made it through to the weekend.

Earlier this season, things were all going so well. In the space of five events, the former Rookie of the Year had a second, two fourths and a ninth and stood eighth on the Ryder Cup table. Now he is 17th, with every chance he will fall even lower this weekend as he sits it out.

"I'm in a really tough position now," he said. "I really need to turn it on and I also need to stay upbeat. I have to do that to have a chance.

"I'm struggling and my confidence has taken a bit of a battering, but I've been here before. It's only two years ago that I was worried about losing my European Tour card," he added. "I'm clinging to the fact that I feel on the right track and that I'm not as far away as my scores suggest. Everybody goes through it and hopefully I'll be better for it."

Having turned professional five years ago, Dougherty has had to wait a long time for his first Open appearance. He failed to qualify the last three seasons, but finishing 15th on the 2005 Order of Merit enabled him to put it in his diary, and for it to coincide with Royal Liverpool's first staging of the event since 1967 made it extra special.

"I was 10 or 11 when I first played [at Hoylake] and have probably had 40 to 50 rounds," he said. "For my first Open to be there is fantastic and I've really been looking forward to it."

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