Andy Sullivan is guaranteed a Major debut this year after securing one of three Open spots available via the Joburg Open along with Anthony Wall and David Howell
Last year, rapidly improving GM columnist Andy Sullivan, told us of two big goals he still had to tick off on his to do list – to win his first tour event, and to play in his first Major championship. He ticked off the former in his first event of 2015 by winning the South African Open, and in winning the Joburg Open less than two months later, he has now ticked off the second goal too as the event was an Open Qualifier offering three spots at St Andrews this July for the top three finishers not already exempt.
Of course, the way Sullivan is playing, there’s a fair chance he may well be making his Major debut before that if he can make it into the world’s top 50 in time for the Augusta cut-off point the week before the Masters, or in time for the US Open.
Joining Sullivan at St Andrews in July will be fellow Englishmen David Howell and Anthony Wall who were among five players to tie for second in Johannesburg, two behind Sullivan. The two remaining Open spots were decided on World Rankings with Howell and Wall – 158th and 312th respectively – getting the nod over Ireland’s Kevin Phelan and South Africa’s Jaco Van Zyl and Wallie Coetsee.
It was particularly good news for Wall, who, having never finished outside the top 90 in Europe from 1998 to 2012, had to miss much of the 2013 season through injury, before coming back to finish 110th on the Race to Dubai last year. He was aided by an impressive four eagles during the week in Joburg, and will be making his sixth Open appearance at St Andrews this July, hoping to improve on his best finish of 11th at Hoylake in 2006.
Five-time tour winner, Howell, whose last victory came in the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, closed with a three-under-par 69 to hoist himself up to tied 2nd. He has played in 12 Opens, with a best finish of tied 7th at Birkdale in 2008, but this will be the first time he has played in golf’s premier event at the Home of Golf. “I’m absolutely delighted with that,” said Howell. “I came here specifically to qualify for The Open and to win the tournament, so to come away with one of those two things is fantastic.”
“This year has been a rollercoaster,” commented Sullivan. “I have never played in an Open Championship before so it will be great to get the first one under my belt. It’s unbelievable to get the win and a spot in The Open at St Andrews. It’s absolutely fantastic.”
And it finally means Sullivan’s caddie, Sean McDonagh, will no longer be able to claim he has played in more Majors than his boss. McDonagh, also a professional, played in the St Andrews Open in 2005, and although he didn’t make the cut, he had at least played two more rounds of Major Championship golf than his employer… until this year!