Singh, Simpson, Holmes, Marino and Ikeda receive spots in British Open

vijay singh
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Vijay Singh, who almost won at Royal St. George's in 2002, is hoping his back will hold up enough to allow him to play there again next week.
PA Sport and Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Monday, July 04, 2011 | 5:38 p.m.

Vijay Singh, who tied for second the last time the British Open was held at Royal St. George’s in 2003, will have the chance to play in next week's championship there -- if he is fit enough.

The former world No. 1 pulled out of last week's AT&T National in Philadelphia with back trouble, but was one of five players added to the British Open field off the world rankings on Monday. The others were Webb Simpson, J.B. Holmes and Steve Marino and Japan's Yuta Ikeda.

The places became available to them because of who won this season's big events -- Rory McIlroy (U.S. Open), Charl Schwartzel (the Masters), K.J. Choi (Players Championship) and Luke Donald (BMW PGA Championship) were already exempt -- and because past champions Sir Nick Faldo and Greg Norman decided not to play.

Australian Brendan Jones is now first reserve and will be waiting for news on whether Tiger Woods makes the trip.

On Sunday, four players earned spots in the British Open – Charles Howell III, Harrison Frazar, Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen.

Howell got in because of his third-place finish Sunday in the AT&T National. Howell locked up a spot because he had the highest finish from among the top five of those golfers not already qualified for the British Open.

Jacobson and Frazar claimed the two spots on offer from a "current form" mini-money list on the PGA Tour, while Olesen and Howell were the leading non-exempt players at the Alstom French Open and AT&T National.

Olesen tied for second with England's Mark Foster, but will be Royal St. George’s by virtue of being the higher player in the world rankings.

Howell knew playing in a major tournament for the first time this season was on the line Sunday and tried not to let the pressure take the focus off playing well at Aronimink Golf Club.

"I thought about it. It was in the back of my head," he said. "But that doesn't mean anything. It definitely doesn't help you play better, I know that much."

Howell clinched a spot not far from his childhood home. His father had his residency at the children's hospital of Philadelphia and Howell lived in Ardmore until he was 3.

"Obviously, I'm thrilled," he said. "But the more important thing was today."

Howell was strong throughout and quickly separated himself from a field of other British Open hopefuls that included Webb Simpson and Steve Marino. He made his move on a bogey-free front nine, with birdies on the first, sixth and ninth holes.

"I just kept trying to push ahead," Howell said. "It almost made it a little bit easier to just forget about it on the closing holes."