Drama in the battle for precious Royal Birkdale places

Open spots up for grabs
Open spots up for grabs
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Ian Poulter was the stand-out name to book his place in The Open Championship, which starts in just over a fortnight’s time.

And in doing so Poulter will return to the course, Royal Birkdale, where he finished runner-up to Padriag Harrington in the battle for the Claret Jug in 2008.

Rounds of 70 and 68 on his home course was good enough to see the popular 41-year-old through in final qualifying.

Poulter had to be content with a share of second place at Woburn behind the winner, Indian golfer Shiv Kapur, who carded an impressive eight under par.

Kapur was in tremendous form in the second round, shooting a 65, which included nine birdies.

Joint-second with Poulter was Toby Tree (Goodwood).

A happy and relieved Poulter said: “ Birkdale is my favourite Open venue because of 2008 and I’m looking forward to competing there.

"It’s going to be a busy run.

"It will be my fourth tournament in a row but it’s about managing my energy levels.

"But as soon as I get there I will be pumped for the week.

“It would have been disappointing to miss out, especially around this course (Woburn). I would have been expected to have qualified and I guess you can say job well done.”

Haydn McCullen (Delamere Forest) took the primary honours at Hillside ahead of Nicholas McCarthy (Moortown) and Adam Hodkinson (AH Golf and Sport Management).

McCullen made Lancashire golf history in his amateur days when he became the first player to win the boys' title and the county title in the same year in 2013.

He was in irresistible form clinching victory in style with a second round 64.

The 20-year-old said: "Being from Lancashire makes it very special for me.

"I got my putter working for once and before I knew it I had a score going. I am so excited - I can't wait."

Southport's Lee Slattery missed out at Hillside as he tied for fourth, while Lancaster amateur Jack Clarkson tied for 15th.

Andy Palmer (Chorley) was way out of the running at 10 over par.

There was drama at Gailes Links in Scotland, where Scottish amateur Connor Syme and American Julian Suri qualified as the top two and there was a four-way play-off for the remaining spot.

Mark Young (Clitheroe) was in the mix to qualify for his second Open, but he and the two other golfers in the play-off missed out to Australian Ryan McCarthy. His birdie at the first extra hole after draining a putt from eight feet was good enough.

At Royal Cinque Ports, Matthew Southgate (Thorpe Hall) was the leading qualifier with a two-round total of 136, six under par - that was three strokes clear of the second-placed Robert Dinwiddie, of Barnard Castle.

It was a particularly poignant win for Southgate, who.booked his Open ticket for the third time in four years.

"I'm thrilled to be back at The Open," said Southgate, who failed to qualify in 2015 and instead spent the week of the Open recovering from an operation for testicular cancer.

"It means so much to me. Last year at Troon was amazing with my family there and to be in the mix (he finished 12th) was amazing.

"The atmosphere was electric. It brought a tear to my eye when I finished because I was overwhelmed with how I played."

After a four-way play-off, Canada's Austin Connelly claimed the final place.

At Notts (Hollinwell), English golfers Mark Foster (unattached) and Joe Dean (Hillsborough) were the top two.