MELBOURNE, Australia -- Amateur Cameron Smith is tied for the lead with fellow Australian Stephen Dartnall after Tuesday’s first round of International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for the 2013 British Open. The top three finishers in the two-day, 36-hole qualifier at Kingston Heath Golf Club will earn spots in Open at Muirfield in July.
Smith and Hartnell opened with 5-under 67s.
Queenslander Smith, ranked 30th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, comes into IFQ fresh from winning the 2013 Australian Amateur Championship.
“To win a couple of weeks ago was definitely a confidence booster,” he said. “It’s my dream to win the Open, so to play in it would be incredible. Just the history of it, I’m into that stuff.”
Experiencing a return to form, Dartnall was pleased with his score after a conservative round.
“I have been hitting the ball pretty well and just slowly working around the course — no heroics or anything too exciting, which is a good way to play,” said Dartnall, who has finished in the top 10 twice from his last three starts on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
“When there are only three spots for 70 guys, I guess you attack a little bit more,” he said. “But you still play pretty conservatively especially on a course like this.”
Dartnall, who has previously competed on the Web.Com Tour, is aiming to play in his first major.
“I have never played a major, so it would be fantastic,” he said. “Getting into the event is only the very start of it — obviously it’s good to play them but you want to get there and play well.”
Finishing a shot behind Dartnall and Smith were fellow Australians Steven Jeffress, Anthony Summers and Adam Bland.
Rounding out the top five on 3 under par are Australians Peter Wilson, David McKenzie, Anthony Brown, Scott Laycock, Matthew Griffin and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.
Two-time qualifier Kurt Barnes, who is the highest ranked player in the field, is poised at 2 under par after closing with two birdies to keep him well in the hunt.
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 the British Open. Ther IFQ events are set for Feb. 28-March 1 at Amata Spring Country Club in Bangkok, Thailand; March 5-6 at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in South Africa; May 20 at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas; and June 24 at Sunningdale Golf Club in Sunningsale, England.