Open awaits Ancer, Papadatos, McLeod

EAO 2018 qualifiers for The Open

Every Open Championship is special. Of course they are. But 2019 is guaranteed to be especially so. For the first time since 1951 and for only the second time in its (by then) 159-year history, golf’s oldest and most important championship is returning to the glorious links of Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. 

In other words, the Open is going to be played outside Great Britain, which will come as a bit of a shock to those who erroneously refer to the championship as the “British Open.” While Northern Ireland is a constituent part of the United Kingdom, GB is made up of only Scotland, England and Wales. Geography lesson over. 

Anyway, 68-years on from Englishman Max Faulkner’s two-shot victory over runner-up Antonio Cerda of Argentina (tied for 6th place, Bill Shankland and Peter Thomson were the leading Australians), the iconic Claret Jug will once again be contested across the Irish Sea in the tiny province that has produced three Open champions - Fred Daly in 1947, Darren Clarke in 2011 and Rory McIlroy in 2014.

As a result of their finishes in the 103rd Australian Open at The Lakes, Abraham Ancer, Dimitrios Papadatos and Jake McLeod will each have an opportunity to add their names to an honour roll that includes just about every great player in the history of the game. In the first of the “Open Qualifying Series” - 16 events to be played across the PGA Tour, European Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia, the Asian Tour, the Sunshine Tour and the Japan Tour that will identify 46 players over the next few months - the lucky trio were the leading three competitors in the top-ten not already exempt for Portrush. 

So far so good. But it is to be hoped that all three fare better than their immediate predecessors. Last year’s Australian Open champion, Cameron Davis, finished T-39 at Carnoustie earlier this year, while both Jonas Blixt and Matt Jones comfortably missed the halfway cut. Indeed, since the “OQS” began in 2013, no player identified by the Australian Open has gone on to finish inside the top-25 at the Open. Eight have now failed to make it as far as the weekend, with Aaron Baddley’s T-27 finish at Royal Birkdale in 2016 the best result recorded by any of the 15 previous qualifiers.

Ancer in particular will be hoping to do much better at Portrush, what will be - so far at least - his first foray into Grand Slam golf. The 27-year old Texas-born Mexican has now broken par in 18 of his last 20 competitive rounds, during which he has recorded a brace of top-five finishes on the PGA Tour. When the WGC Mexico was played in his home country back in February, the University of Oklahoma graduate was ranked 255 in the world. This week, even before the biggest win of his career so far, he was up to 96. In so many ways, he is a man on the rise.

The same can be said of McLeod. The recent winner of the New South Wales Open, the 27-year old Queenslander has shown himself well able to go low on multiple occasions. His victory last week was highlighted by a course record 62 and last year at the Victorian Open he shot 61 at 13th Beach. Those sorts of numbers might be unrealistic at Portrush - one of golf’s toughest tests - but the Queenslander clearly doesn’t lack the guts required to make multiple birdies. 

For Papadatos too, the 2019 Open will represent his debut at major championship level (unless he soon qualifies for any of the others). The 27-year old Australian, winner of the 2014 New Zealand Open, the 2017 Victorian Open and, this year on the European Challenge Tour, the Open de Portugal, is a proven winner at lower levels, this will be his chance to shine on a bigger stage. 

One last thing. Records are unclear, but it is a safe assumption that Papadatos will be the first Dimitrios ever to play in an Open. Just in case you were wondering. 

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Australian Open
Pos.CountryPlayer TotalToday
1 MEX A.Ancer -16-3
2 AUS D.Papadatos -11-5
3 AUS J.McLeod -10-6
4 AUS M.Fraser -9-2
T5 AUS D.Micheluzzi -8-3