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Sherri Steinhauer has won two Women's Open at the Royal Lytham course.
Sherri Steinhauer has won two Women's Open at the Royal Lytham course.
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The Open Championship may not take place at Royal Lytham and St Annes until July, but D-Day has arrived six months early for golfers down under, with prized places in the world’s biggest golf event up for grabs.

International Final qualifying for golfers on the Australian tour was being completed at Kingston Heath Golf Club today.

The competition provided the opportunity for Australia’s best golfers to play their way to Lytham this summer – and only the strong would survive.

At the end of the 36 holes, just the top three players in the 46-man field would be granted a place at Lytham from July 15 to 22.

The next International Final Qualifying event will take place at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington, South Africa, on January 18-19, followed by events in Thailand, Dallas, and Sunningdale.

Meanwhile, some of the doubters have been having a go at Lytham.

A contributor on the Fox Sports web-site could hardly contain their indifference to the venues for three of this year’s majors, including Lytham.

Jim McCabe, of Golf Week, wrote: “You’ll find plenty of golfers who are passionate about this links, and for good measure, luminaries such as Bobby Jones, Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros (twice) have won the (British) Open at Lytham.

“Yet for all of that, it is not St Andrews or Muirfield, and thus the summer visit to the Open will lack a bit of its usual aura.”

But we’ve heard it before.

In the run-up to the last Open at Lytham in 2001, there were headlines before the event predicting that the best golfers in the world would make mincemeat of the course, but this was proved to be nonsense.

If there is one venue where the term ‘horses for courses’ applies, it is Royal Lytham and St Annes.

The late Seve Ballesteros won two of his three Open Championships there, while American Sherri Steinhauer won two Women’s Open at the Links Gate venue – in addition, Catriona Matthews won the British Amateur Championship there, and followed that by winning the Ricoh Women’s Open as a professional. And, with that in mind, one player to watch as a potential live outsider at the 2012 Open is David Dixon, who won the Lytham Trophy and claimed the silver medal for the leading amateur at the 2001 Open Championship at Royal Lytham.

He is on a high going into 2012, having recently won the European Tour qualifying school in at the PGA Catalunya Resort

>> Bookmakers William Hill have come up with a number of golf betting specials for 2012.

It is 1-6 a European major winner; 4-9 any major to be decided by a play-off; 6-4 any player on the United States tour to shoot a 59; 7-4 an English major winner; 7-4 an Irish major winner; 11-4 any player on the European Tour to shoot a 59; 12-1 a hole-in-one at every major.

Tiger Woods 2012 major cuts: 6-4 to make all four cuts; 12-1 to make one cut; 4-1 to make two cuts; 6-5 to make three cuts; 25-1 to miss all four.

Major wins: 8-15 no majors; 13-8 one; 10-1 two; 22-1, three; 40-1 four Rory McIlroy 2012; 1-3 No majors, 2-1 one; 9-1 two; 25-1 three; 125-1 four. Lee Westwood major wins: 1-8 none; 3-1 one; 20-1 two; 100-1 three; 200-1 four. Luke Donald 2012 Major wins: 1-8 none; 3-1 one, 20-1, two; 100-1 three; 200-1 four.