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Jean Hugo, Darren Fichardt, Josh Cunliffe
African medalist Jean Hugo (right) will be joined by Darren Fichardt and Josh Cunliffe on the Old Course in July.

South Africans earn all three spots via Africa's qualifier for St. Andrews

The rain-delayed qualifying tournament in South Africa wrapped up with local favorites Jean Hugo, Darren Fichardt and Josh Cunliffe qualifying for the Open after taking all three positions up for grabs in Johannesburg.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (PGA.com) -- Jean Hugo, Darren Fichardt and Josh Cunliffe qualified for the 2010 Open Championship on Friday after taking the top three positions at the African edition of International Final Qualifying (IFQ). The three South Africans, who emerged from a field of 52, will tee it up July 15-18 on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland.

With play having resumed on Friday after heavy rain caused Thursday's play to be abandoned, first-round leader Hugo, 34, recovered from three consecutive bogeys at the start of his second round to post a level-par 71 and finish tied for first on 6 under par at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

Seven-time Sunshine Tour winner Hugo will make his third Open Championship appearance -- the first two coming in 1999 at Carnoustie and in 2001 at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Joining him on 6 under was Fichardt, who qualified for his fifth Open Championship with rounds of 67 and 69. The 34-year-old Fichardt made three consecutive birdies on the seventh, eighth and ninth holes to claim the outright lead and, despite dropped shots on 10 and 11, he earned his Open chance in relative comfort, two strokes ahead of the third-place finishers.

Fichardt, two-time winner on the European Tour, will return to St. Andrews 10 years after making his major championship debut there in the 2000. He subsequently played in 2002, 2004 and in 2008, when he qualified through IFQ-Africa at the same venue.

The final berth was decided by a playoff among Cunliffe, fellow South African Oliver Bekker and the Netherlands' Joost Luiten.

Cunliffe, who, like Fichardt, qualified for Royal Birkdale through IFQ-Africa in 2008, emerged with the place. He holed a 20-foot putt for eagle on the fourth extra hole, the 18th, after all three players made par, birdie, par on the first three.

International Final Qualifying (IFQ) events were introduced in 2004 and are held on five continents to give more players from around the world the chance to gain direct entry into golf's oldest championship.

The Australasian IFQ event took place last week. The remaining events are set for March 10 and 11 at Saujana Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; May 24 at Gleneagles in Plano, Texas; and June 7 at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England. 
 

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