SHANGHAI – The British Open is moving away from 36-hole qualifying, instead using 10 tour events from five continents to determine 32 spots in the field.
The only 36-hole qualifying that remains for golf's oldest championship will be 12 spots available from four links courses just before the British Open. They will become permanent sites. Players who fail to get in the British Open off their own tour can enter those final qualifying sites.
Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson said Monday the reasons for the change include building more interest in the weeks leading up to the British Open to give players a more rigorous test over 72 holes at a tour event instead of 36 holes of qualifying.
The new system will be called the ''Open Qualifying Series,'' and it starts next month at the Australian Open.
On the PGA Tour, instead of the 36-hole qualifier outside Dallas that offered eight spots, the British Open will take the leading four players not already eligible from the top 12 and ties at the AT&T National and The Greenbrier Classic. One spot will be available from the John Deere Classic, a week before the Open.
On the European Tour, the 36-hole qualifier at Sunningdale will be replaced by offering three sports at The Irish Open, the French Open and the Scottish Open. Dawson said the configuration was different for the American tour – four spots at two events, one at the John Deere – to avoid the scramble of getting to Britain at the last minute.
Three spots will be available in Australia and South Africa, and four will be offered at the Mizuno Open in Japan and in Thailand on the Asian Tour.
The British Open is July 17-20 at Royal Liverpool in England.
''There were not in any way problems with the qualifiers. They weren't the cheapest to stage,'' Dawson said. ''We just felt we weren't getting in the media the buildup in the Open. And the fact these events are on television, and there's going to be an Open qualifying leaderboard, we think it will give the Open more anticipation.''
The U.S. qualifier near Dallas had been held in May for the convenience of players, nearly two months before the Open.
Dawson said the golf schedules around the world were getting more crowded, another reason why he felt it made sense to blend in tour events with qualifying.
Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Lee Chang-woo and runner-up Shohei Hasegawa earned a spot in final qualifying for the British Open. They will take part in the Open Qualifying Series in Thailand.
International Final Qualifying began in 2004, offering 36-hole qualifiers in America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
Previously, the Local Final Qualifying was held on four courses near where the British Open was being playing that year. Starting next year, the R&A selected four permanent sites in various regions of the country to help with travel – Glasgow-Gailes Links in Scotland, Hillside in northwest of England, Woburn in central England and Royal Cinque Ports on the eastern coast of England.