Argentine Ariel Canete and Englishman Simon Wakefield led the way as 18 players landed places in the field for next month’s Open Championship via International Final Qualifying at Sunningdale but there was agony for José Maria Olazábal.
Two time Master Tournament winner Olazábal, playing in his first event after an enforced five week break because of his ongoing battle with rheumatism, was first off the tee at 6.30am and, after playing the initial 36 holes, he then had to endure the heartache of losing on the third play-off hole just before 9pm.
After six players tied for 17th place on a four under par aggregate of 136, it came down to the 42 year old Spaniard, Peter Baker and Simon Dyson for the final two European spots for The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale from July 17-20 but it was the English pair who eventually held their nerves.
They joined Canete and Wakefield as qualifiers, after the pair finished top of the 120 hopefuls vying it out over two rounds at Sunningdale for a coveted spot in the third Major of the season.
Wakefield reproduced the form that saw him finish runner up behind winner Jeez Milkha Singh at the Bank Austria GolfOpen presented by Telekom Austria at the start of the month, finishing his first round on Sunningdale's Old Course with back-to-back birdies for a five under par 66.
Playing on the New Course for his second 18 holes, Wakefield followed a bogey on the 16th with successive birdies on 17 and 18 once again to card a 67 and finish with a seven under par total of 133.
He revealed that it was a trip to Royal Birkdale that had rekindled his interest in golf, some 17 years ago as a junior.
Wakefield said: “I’ve never played at Royal Birkdale before. I remember going there in 1991 to watch Ian Baker-Finch. My mum and dad took me along because at that point I had lost interest in golf and was too busy climbing conker trees.”
Canete carded rounds of 67 and 66 to match Wakefield’s aggregate score and qualify for his first Open Championship, after also finishing with back-to-back birdies.
Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and rising English talent Ross Fisher were among a group of four players a shot further back on six under par.
The 18 qualifiers from Sunningdale were: Simon Wakefield (Eng); Ariel Canete (Arg); Johan Edfors (Swe); Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (Fra); R Fisher (Eng); Gregory Bourdy (Fra); Paul Waring (Eng); Thomas Aiken (RSA); Alexander Noren (Swe); Pelle Edberg (Swe); Anthony Wall (Eng); Jose-Filipe Lima (Por); David Horsey (Eng); Martin Wiegele (Aus); Philip Archer (Eng); Steve Wesbter (Eng); Peter Baker (Eng); Simon Dyson (Eng)