R&A chief executive Peter Dawson believes a revamped qualifying system for The Open Championship announced yesterday will be more “rigorous” than International Final Qualifying, which it replaces.
The Open Qualifying Series will comprise 14 events in nine countries on the European Tour, the PGA Tour in America, Japan Golf Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia.
This offers players the opportunity to qualify for golf’s oldest major championship, which takes place at Hoylake from July 17-20 next year.
Nine qualifying places will be available on both the European Tour and PGA Tour.
In Europe this will be via the Irish Open, Alstom Open de France and Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and in America at the AT&T National, Greenbrier Classic and John Deere Classic.
On the European Tour, three places from each of the three events will be given to players, not otherwise exempt, who finish in the top 10.
Two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington said: “Those three events will attract some quality players who would not otherwise have entered – it’s a nice boost for the European Tour from the R&A.” The new system replaces International Final Qualifying (IFQ), which was introduced in 2004 and involved 36-hole qualifying events in Australasia, Asia, Africa, America and Europe.
“We have been thinking about some changes for a long time,” Dawson said.
“We recognise that players have increasingly busy schedules and that qualifying events are an addition to the calendar. If we can use Tour events instead that’s a bonus.
“The fact we have 72-hole events makes it more rigorous and I think that’s important.
“In Asia, Australia and South Africa IFQ was very popular and we got a good stream of players.
“However, their performance in the Open has been disappointing, very few have made the cut.
“We are trying to make it more rigorous.”
Final Qualifying for The Open has also been changed for 2014. It will continue to offer three places at each of four events in the UK.
But for the first time next year they will be played at venues in Scotland and the North West and the Central and South Coast regions of England.
This provides a more accessible route into The Open for players qualifying from the 13 Regional Qualifying events around the country.
The Final Qualifying venues are: Gailes Links, Hillside, Woburn and Royal Cinque Ports. Regional Qualifying for North East and Cumbria-based professionals and amateurs is again at the Northumberland club, on Monday June 23.
Dawson, a member of the Northumberland club, added: “We are still committed to reaching players from all around the world.
“We are quite satisfied that everyone who was eligible to play in IFQ will be able to play in the new series. In terms of the European and American events, we think this will give much more build-up to The Open in terms of who is going to be qualifying.
“Qualifying is targeted to produce a total of 44 players for The Open, about 28 per cent of the field which is quite a healthy ratio.”
The Open Qualifying Series will start with the Emirates Australian Open on November 28.