18 January 2011, Johannesburg, South Africa: A talented trio of emerging stars will take their places at South Africa’s Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Wednesday, eager to secure one of three Open Championship berths available at International Final Qualifying (IFQ) Africa. South Africans Jbe’ Kruger and Branden Grace, along with the Netherlands’ Floris de Vries, are all tour winners, capable of producing a performance that will earn them a ticket to Royal St George’s.
Kruger, the eldest of the four at 24, is the highest-ranked player in the 36-man field at 137th in the world. A two-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, he has yet to appear in a Major Championship. His compatriot Branden Grace, meanwhile, made his Major debut at Turnberry in 2009. Having qualified through IFQ Europe, the 22-year-old went on to finish tied-43rd on the Ailsa Course. His maiden Sunshine Tour victory came in November last year in the Coca-Cola Charity Championship.
Grace and Krugerrecently finished tied-8th in the Africa Open at East London Golf Club, a European Tour event won by South Africa’s reigning Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen.
“Playing in The Open Championship would mean a lot to me,” said Kruger. “I have played Royal St George’s before as an amateur, so to get into that as my first Open would mean a lot. Because I have played there, it’s more of an incentive to actually make it.”
Grace, who also played at Sandwich as an amateur, said: “I think that it’s everyone’s dream to play in The Open. I played in The Open two years ago at Turnberry and it is one of those tournaments I will never forget. It was my first Major and I managed to make the cut and have a good week…it would be amazing to get in there and play it again.”
Like Kruger, Floris de Vries, 21, will be looking to earn his first Major start. The 2010 Mugello Tuscany Open Champion graduated to the European Tour this year, after taking fourth place in the 2010 Challenge Tour Ranking.
Last year’s three successful, IFQ Africa qualifiers, South Africans Darren Fichardt, Josh Cunliffe and Jean Hugo, also return in 2011, hoping to secure back-to-back Open Championship appearances.
Players will have a practice-day at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, which will measure 6,983 metres (7,611 yards) and play to a par of 71, on Tuesday 18 January. The competition begins on Wednesday, with the first group teeing-off at 7:15am, local time. 36 holes, 18 on Wednesday and 18 on Thursday, will be played to determine which three players will secure places in the 140th Open Championship. The draw can be found online at Opengolf.com.
End-of-round, hole-by-hole scores and full reports will appear on Opengolf.com throughout the event.