With 96 players battling for 10 spots, European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie proved he can still play with the big guns. (Getty Images)
Montgomerie qualifies for Open with record-tying round
Needing a second-round 65 just to be in a playoff at the one-day 36-hole International Final Qualifying (IFQ) event, Colin Montgomerie went three better to earn one of 10 available spots in his last realistic chance to get in.
BERKSHIRE, England (PA Sport) -- European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie produced a remarkable course record-equaling 62 on the New Course at Sunningdale on Monday to earn himself a place in next month's Open Championship at St. Andrews -- the course where he finished runner-up to Tiger Woods five years ago.
Needing a second-round 65 just to be in a playoff at the one-day 36-hole International Final Qualifying (IFQ) event, the 46-year-old, now ranked 365th in the world, went three better than that and finished tied for second with fellow Scot Andrew Coltart on 9 under par.
With 96 players having battled for 10 places, they finished two behind Shane Lowry, the 23-year-old who won last year's Irish Open as an amateur and who will now play his first major after matching one of Sir Nick Faldo's best-ever rounds. Lowry scored a course record-equaling 62 on the Old Course at Sunningdale -- the same as Faldo in the 1986 European Open -- but Montgomerie's round came on by far the tougher of the two layouts.
Montgomerie, the eight-time European No. 1, has never missed an Open Championship since his debut at the Home of Golf in 1990, and realized this was probably his last chance to play another championship there.
"It's a special place no question and I'm just glad the opportunity has been taken," said Montgomerie, who turns 47 later this month. His round tied the record set by Graeme Storm in this same event a year ago.
Lowry, only 1 under par the turn during his morning round, started for home with six successive birdies and by pitching to 18 inches at the 425-yard 17th he was able to tie the lowest score of Faldo's European Tour career.
"I've been struggling on the greens and confidence was a bit low, so I changed my putter this morning," commented Lowry. "After nine holes I said to my caddie I'm going to have to be patient and it certainly paid off. St. Andrews is going to be great. I said at the start of the year it's one tournament I wanted to play."
Tied for fourth were Northern Ireland's Gareth Maybin and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn -- second to Woods at St. Andrews in 2000 and to Ben Curtis at Sandwich in 2003. One stroke further back were Welshman Bradley Dredge, Spaniards Ignacio Garrido and Jose Manuel Lara and also Argentina's Tano Goya.
That left six men on 6 under with one place left, but that instantly became five because South African James Kingston had already decided to head off to Heathrow for a flight to Botswana.
The 10th spot went to Marcel Siem, the German who led the Wales Open with a round to go, with a birdie at the first extra hole. Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Dubliner Peter Lawrie, France's Gregory Bourdy and Swede Patrik Sjoland failed to match him.
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. Already this year, IFQ events were held in South Africa, Australasia, Malaysia and the United States.