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Rain, storm

Graeme Storm of England won the European edition of International Final Qualifying for the second time in three years at Sunningdale, as 10 players earned their spots in the final IFQ event of 2011. Red-hot Alex Noren also made it.

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The Claret Jug was perched on the first tee at Sunningdale to inspire the players to persevere through the rainy conditions. (Getty Images)

SUNNINGDALE, England -- Graeme Storm coasted to a place in the 2011 British Open on June 6 as he won the European edition of International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for the second time in three years at Sunningdale. The 33-year-old Englishman produced rounds of 65 and 62 over the Old and New courses for a 12-under-par 127, taking the first of 10 qualifying places up for grabs.

At the end of a long day, the start of which was delayed by 90 minutes because of heavy rain, Storm, the 2007 French Open winner, emerged with a three-shot victory over Sweden’s Alexander Noren.

“The delay certainly helped me, because when I teed off the rain had stopped and the conditions were perfect,” said Storm, who also won the European IFQ at Sunningdale in 2009. “It’s fantastic to qualify. I’ve not played St. George’s since the Amateur Championship was there in 1997, so it will be nice to go back."

Noren, fresh from his victory in Sunday’s Saab Wales Open at Celtic Manor, secured a double success, as he set up a third Open appearance with rounds of 66 and 64 for a 130.

“I came here on a great high, but I said to my caddie that I needed to just focus for one more day and then we could celebrate the win,” he said. “I was always going to be happy whatever happened today but now I can really enjoy all of this.”

Frenchman Thomas Levet, who tied for second at the 2002 British Open at Muirfield, continued his rich vein of qualifying form as he progressed in a share of third on 131 after a 65 and a 66. The former Scottish Open winner booked a place in the U.S. Open at nearby Walton Heath last week, and he completed a good seven days with another purposeful display.

“I’ve got through to the Open and the U.S. Open at qualifying; there’s not many guys do that,” smiled Levet.

Scotland’s Peter Whiteford, seventh in the BMW PGA championship and eighth in the Wales Open over the past week, secured his first start in a major after a 67 and a 64 left him in a tie for third on 131. English youngster Gary Boyd, who played in the 2008 British Open at Royal Birkdale, also came through on 131.

Spain’s Alejandro Canizares, who was tied for fourth heading into the final round of last year’s Open at St. Andrews but fell away into a tie for 27th with a closing 77, ensured a swift return with a 67 and a 65 for 132.

He was joined on that mark by France’s Gregory Bourdy and Englishmen Richard McEvoy and former European Open winner Kenneth Ferrie.

“I actually came through a seven-man playoff in this event for the 2005 Open at St. Andrews and then won the European Open the following week at the K Club,” said Ferrie. “That was my best ever year and hopefully getting through here can kick-start my season again.”

In a five-man playoff to decide the final place, George Coetzee emerged with the coveted berth. The South African, along with Brett Rumford, Soren Kjeldsen, Pablo Larrazabal and Mark Tullo, had all finished on 6 under par. As Kjeldsen, Rumford and Tullo were eliminated, Coetzee finally prevailed with a birdie-two on the sixth extra hole, to deny Spain’s Larrazabal.

At the other end of the spectrum, whether Colin Montgomerie ever plays another major championship remains open to doubt after he finished last in the qualifier.

A week after missing out by five shots in U.S. Open qualifying -- and three days after posting his worst 36-hole total in Europe in 20 years at the Saab Wales Open -- Montgomerie was 11 strokes too many at Sunningdale. And he trooped in a massive 18 shots behind Storm.

An opening with a 1 over-par 71 on the Old Course at Sunningdale, the 47-year-old Scot knew he needed "something like" his record-equaling 62 on the New Course last year to make it through. But he could manage only a 5-over 74.

Other routes into what would be his 22nd consecutive British Open at Royal St. George’s next month are fast running out. A top-5 finish at either the French or Scottish Opens could do it, and there are also two spots available through a mini-money list on the European Tour that continues at this week's Italian Open.

"It's disappointing, so I'll go to Italy and try again,” said Montgomerie, who has has had five runner-up finishes in majors -- a record for someone who has never won one. "I will be trying everything, as always."

Among others who missed out were former Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley and England’s Nick Dougherty.