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After a mere 48 hours in England, Jay Williamson is calling Royal Birkdale his favorite golf course. (Cox/Getty Images)

Second-best leads to a long-awaited first for Williamson

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His runner-up finish at the John Deere Classic opened up an opportunity of a lifetime for Jay Williamson. So far, he's loving every minute of his mad dash to Royal Birkdale for his first start in an Open Championship.

By T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

SOUTHPORT, England - Jay Williamson will be the first to tell you that second best isn't always such a bad thing.

On Sunday evening in Silvis, Ill., Williamson and Brad Adamonis were defeated by the sizzling Kenny Perry on the first hole of a playoff at the John Deere Classic.

Sure, Williamson was disappointed not to have won his first PGA TOUR event, but there was a silver lining: since Perry had already decided he would not be making the trip to the Open Championship, the next-best finisher at the John Deere Classic would lock up the final spot in the field at Royal Birkdale.

Seeing as Williamson and Adamonis tied for second, the tiebreak was determined by giving the spot to the player with the lower final-round score. Williamson shot a 2-under 69, while Adamonis turned in a 1-under 70.

"It's been a little crazy. Ever since I was standing on the first tee of the playoff hole, everything has been surreal," Williamson said after a practice round at Royal Birkdale on Tuesday that ended early in the evening. "Is this really happening? Do I really deserve this? What have I done? It's just the old adage, 'if you play well, good things happen.'"

"I've been working hard and my game hasn't been that bad. I really needed a week like that to keep me going," he added. "To not win last week was pretty disappointing, but the consolation prize to come here is incredible. It has been the two best days of my golf life, no question about it."

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Williamson was able to travel in style, too. The John Deere Classic provided a chartered jet on Sunday night for those players who had qualified for the Open and still played in their event.

"Thanks to John Deere - I mean, what a great sponsor," Williamson said. "If they're not the best on TOUR, they've got to be top five. For them to give us that opportunity was phenomenal. I don't appreciate the challenge of getting over here and being ready to play as much as a lot of the other guys do."

This is Williamson's first trip to the Open Championship. He's played hundreds, maybe even thousands, of golf courses in his lifetime. But after just two days at Royal Birkdale, he's already got a new favorite.

"People always ask, 'what's your favorite course? What's your favorite course?' For me, Royal Birkdale is now," he said. "I love this style of golf and I love conditions like this. I can't say it's going to be my favorite course if it starts raining sideways, but, you know."

First impressions are everything, and so far Williamson loves the people and the golf.

"The respect that the people have over here is tremendous," he said. "The honor of playing here - there are just so many emotions. It's really a special place to be.

"The golf is harder than I thought, but if you execute shots, you get rewarded. You really can't take a shot off out here or it'll embarrass you. It's that difficult. It's like a force that never goes away and you always have to stay on top of it, but it's really been a neat experience so far."

Williamson will be one of the later starters on Thursday, but he could probably use the extra sleep. He tees off at 3:04 local time (10:04 a.m. ET) with England's Simon Wakefield and South Africa's James Kingston.

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