MELBOURNE, Australia -- New Zealand’s Mark Brown will take his place in the 2013 British Open Championship at Muirfield after setting a new course record at Kingston Heath Golf Club on Wednesday during International Final Qualifying (IFQ) Australasia. The two-day 36-hole qualifier awarded three spots in the Open from a field of 70 challengers.
Starting the final day at even par and five shots off the pace, Brown produced an eagle and eight birdies to card a 10-under-par 62 and secure his slot in golf’s oldest major championship, which takes place July 18-21.
Brown is proud to become New Zealand’s first representative to qualify for this year’s Open. This will be his second time at the Open having qualified in 2009, when he missed the cut at Turnberry. He said he was very much looking forward to the challenge of playing a Scottish links again.
“If there’s one major you want to play, for me, this would be it,” said Brown, whose best performance in a major was 24th at the 2008 PGA Championship.
He added that he was delighted to qualify by beating the previous course record of 63 set by amateur Cruze Strange.
“Yesterday I was a fair way back, so today I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” said Brown. “I just went out and tried to enjoy it.
“I made six birdies in the first nine, then it got serious and it wasn’t so much fun anymore,” he explained. “But it’s massive. I love this place and I played well here in November,” when he tied for third in the Australian Masters here last year.
“I’ve got so much respect for the place,” he added. “It’s quite a thrill to hold the course record.”
The two other qualifiers for Muirfield were Australians Steven Jeffress on 9 under par and Stephen Dartnall on 8 under par.
It has still yet to sink in for Jeffress that at 37 years of age he will tee it up in his first major championship thanks to a composed round.
“It’s pretty impressive – it probably hasn’t even sunk in yet, it’s going to be great, it’s going to be unbelievable,” said Jeffress immediately following his round. “I had a number that I wanted to get to, 10 under. I thought if I get to that, then it’s going to be competitive.
“I had 2 under around the front nine and then I parred through to 15, which I was pretty frustrated at,” he explained. “I said to my caddie that we have to do something here because only the top three get in and then I birdied 15 and 16.”
Dartnall, who was tied for the lead after the first round, is heading to his first major thanks to two solid rounds.
“I started off a bit scratchy, actually – I was 1 over after six then made a few birdies and just played solid from there on in. It wasn’t quite as good as yesterday but it was enough, I guess,” said Dartnall. “I have never played a major before so will be a good learning experience, to go there and obviously try and play well.”
Amateur Cameron Smith, who share the first-round lead with Dartnall, was one of five to finish one shot off the top three spots on 7 under par, the others being Nevan Basic, Scott Laycock, Anthony Summers and veteran Peter O’Malley.
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. The 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.