JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Justin Harding of South Africa won the African edition of International Final Qualifying (IFQ) on Wednesday, and will lead three players into the 2013 British Open this summer. Harding, 27, won the two-day, 36-hole qualifying event at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s East Course with a 14 under par total of 130.
He will be joined at the Open by Spain’s Eduardo De La Riva and fellow South African Darryn Lloyd, who finished on 11 under and 9 under, respectively.
Harding, a three-time winner on southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour, managed nine birdies and one bogey in a final round 8-under-par 64 to clinch the first of the three places available to the starting field of 72 hopefuls. It followed a 6-under-par 66 in the first round.
“I’m so happy to get through – there are about 70 players here and a lot of them have won tournaments, both on the European and Sunshine Tours, and to get one of only three spots is incredible,” he said. “All of us as youngsters avidly watched the Open over the years and I’m really looking forward to my first major. With Ernie Els defending it will be a special one, and I’ve heard that Muirfield is a phenomenal place, so everything feels perfect right now.
“To play in the Open is an experience every golfer wants to have,” he added. “I don’t really have words for it, but I’m sure it will be special. No doubt my dad is already booking the flights, and I can’t wait to enjoy the week.”
De La Riva, who finished tied for third at the Bankia Madrid Masters and third outright at the Andalucia Open on the European Tour last year, began with an eagle at the first and was 5 under par at the turn. A birdie at the 17th followed to give him a 6-under-par round of 66 and a place in the Open.
“This is a dream! I am so excited for my chance to play, and I have some good tournaments before we go to the Open, so I want to prepare my game for July,” said the 30-year-old Spaniard. “For the longest time I have wanted to play the Open, and to finally do it is great, especially amongst so many good South African players. This was a tough race, this week, but the course was perfect and my game was really good, so I’m happy that it all worked out so well.”
Lloyd, who played on the PGA Europro Tour last year, started his final round with an eagle at the first hole and notched up four birdies and four bogeys before birdieing the last to finish on 9 under par and avoid a playoff with his compatriots Jake Roos and Garth Mulroy, who finished one shot further back.
“It’s always been a goal for me to play in the Open, and I’m really glad I could use this opportunity,” he said. “I live in England and that adds to the importance of this championship for me – it’s really amazing that I’ll be playing at Muirfield.”
England’s Ross McGowan came up just short in his attempt to play in the Open for the first time since 2010. His 4-underr 68 in the final round left him two shots out of the qualifying spots. First-round leader Andrew Georgiou of South Africa stumbled to a 2-over 74 to finish four shots back.
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 Australian and Asian events have already been held, and the remaining IFQ events are set for May 20 at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas; and June 24 at Sunningdale Golf Club in Sunningdale, England.