Dozen South Africans in Open

No less than 12 South African golfers will tee off at the 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, Liverpool, from July 17 to 20.

No less than 12 South African golfers will tee off at the 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, Liverpool, from July 17 to 20.

Five of the dozen golfers - Thomas Aiken, Hennie Otto, Doug McGuigan, Darren Fichardt and Open debutant Josh Cunliffe - had to do it the hard way by gaining entry via the International Final Qualifying (IFQ) schools.

They will be joined by former Open champion Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Rory Sabbatini, Trevor Immelman, Richard Sterne, Tim Clark and James Kingston. Seven other South Africans - Tjaart van der Walt, Charl Schwartzel, David Frost, Anton Haig, Branden Grace, Andrew McLardy and Louis Oosthuizen - all failed to qualify at IFQ.

For Aiken, who was the last South African to qualify, it was an agonising five-hour wait before he could confirm his qualification.

"It was the longest five hours of my life," Aiken told the Sunshine Tour website. The six-time Sunshine Tour winner qualified last Monday after finishing two shots adrift of the leading pair at the Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England.

"I'm relieved it worked out and that I avoided the playoff," said Aiken. "I played really well and just had the wind change on me a couple of times in the last few holes."

This will be Aiken's second Open after qualifying for Royal Liverpool in 2006 where he missed the cut by three strokes.

"I think it will be a little different this time around. The first time I played, I was a little overwhelmed by the stature of the event.

"It's a lot to absorb ... the history ... the atmosphere ... playing with the world's top players." - Sapa

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