SUNNINGDALE, England -- Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal were among those to miss out in the European edition of International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for the British Open at Sunningdale on Monday, but England's Sam Walker will finally make his debut at Royal Lytham next month after 10 previous attempts.
Montgomerie, who took two strokes too many in a qualifying event for the U.S. Open four weeks ago, came even closer this time. But he was left needing to hole a bunker shot on the final hole to go into a playoff at the end of the one-day, 36-hole qualifier.
The shot had the length but finished six feet wide, and so the 49-year-old was able to add only a level-par 70 on the Old Course to his morning 3-under 66 round the adjoining New Course.
Olazabal, Montgomerie’s successor as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, was on track to make it when he reached 5 under after 14 holes, but fell back to 1 under with rounds of 67 and 71.
Montgomerie, who could still be part of the Lytham action with a top-five finish at either the upcoming French or Scottish Opens, left without comment.
"I made a great start, but then had too many putts and when I hit a bad shot on the 16th that was it," said Olazabal, who at age 46 was seeking a 21st appearance in the Open. "It's consistency -- you have to do it for 18 holes four days in a row."
Or in this case, two rounds in a row.
Walker, who made his first try to qualify 14 years ago when he was 20, finished second to compatriot James Morrison as the 96-strong field battled for 10 spots.
"It's been a massive 24 hours for me -- I should rush around more often," said the Birmingham native, who won a European Challenge Tour in Scotland on Sunday, flew back home and then set off at 5:00 a.m. in order to make his tee-off time. "I'm tired, but it feels amazing and it's going to be fantastic to play. It'll be one of the best things in my life."
Morrison, another who will be making his Open debut, finished 8 under after rounds of 63 and 68. He was up even earlier for a 6:48 a.m. start -- and that after a disturbed night thanks to his 12-day-old son Finley.
"I was fighting a few demons the last few holes," he said, remembering he had finished bogey-bogey to miss out by one last year.
Sparkling though Morrison's first round was, it was bettered by one in the afternoon by Welshman Jamie Donaldson as he made it through with only a single shot to spare. His 62 equalled the course record that Montgomerie himself matched two years ago.
For Donaldson it will be a second Open, while England's Matthew Baldwin will play his first a month after qualifying for a U.S. Open debut. He too finished 5 under, as did compatriot Richard Finch, Spain's Alejandro Canizares and Australian Marcus Fraser.
However, Finch's fellow Yorkshireman Danny Willett, who beat Fraser in a four-hole playoff for the BMW International Open on Sunday, missed out by four shots. After a 9:30 p.m. flight back from Germany, Willett had "a couple of beers" to celebrate his first European Tour victory and did not get to bed until 2:00 a.m.
Others to fail included Tom Lewis, who led after the opening day at Sandwich last July and with his 65 achieved the lowest round ever by an amateur in the Open; Italian teenager Matteo Manassero; and Sweden’s Niclas Fasth, runner-up to David Duval on Lytham's last staging of the championship in 2001.
Willett could still qualify through a mini-money list that ends this week at the Irish Open. He is just over $150 behind South African Richard Sterne, who missed out himself by one stroke.
Five players – Englismen Lee Slattery and Oliver Fisher, Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth, Sweden’s Oscar Floren and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen -- were involved in the playoff for the last two places on offer.
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. Qualifiers were held in South Africa, Australia, Asia and the United States earlier this year.