Deyen Lawson – file photo PGA of Australia
The already sizeable group of Australasians eligible to play this year’s Open Championship at Royal St Georges in Kent was added to overnight when Gold Coast based Victorian, Deyen Lawson, and New Zealand’s, Daniel Hillier, graduated through Final Qualifying at venues across England.
Both Lawson and Hillier led the qualifiers at their respective venues where a total of twelve players earned their way into the Open Championship, all but one of them to make their debuts in the event beginning on July 15th.
For Lawson it was a great bounce back after missing the cut in Germany last week, the two extra days he had for preparation perhaps a blessing in disguise.
Hillier finished 23rd at last week’s European Challenge Tour event and is generally considered one of the most exciting young talents to come out of New Zealand for several years.
“I’ve got goosebumps hearing that [I’ve qualified], which pretty much sums it up,” said Hillier. “It’s been a pretty crazy day. I got pretty hot on the back nine in the morning and held on through the front nine in the afternoon, then picked up a few birdies coming home which was really nice.
“My dad [in New Zealand] was up to see the end of my first round, which was pretty cool. He sent me a message saying keep going, keep your head down and I’m sure the majority of my friends and family are just waking up now – I’m looking forward to talking to them about it. It’s a shame they can’t come over for The Open but I’m sure they’ll be following closely.
“It’s a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to play in Major Championships and this will be my second one, so I’m really excited to get into it.”
That pair will join Cameron Smith, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Jason Day, Matt Jones, Brad Kennedy, Aaron Pike and Hillier’s fellow New Zealanders, Ryan Fox and Danny Lee as players qualified to tee it up.
Smith, Scott and Leishman are in the field as a result of their recent performances and their current world ranking, Day gets a start due to his 2015 PGA Championship win, Jones and Pike due to their top three finishes at the 2019 Australian Open (carried over from last year) and Kennedy and Fox because of their top two finishes on the Australasian Order of Merit in 2019.
Opportunities still exists for late inclusion at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, next week’s Scottish Open, the 2021 Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge and the John Deere Classic in the US.
Royal St Georges was last used for the Open Championship in 2011 when Darren Clarke was successful and earlier in 2003 when Ben Curtis was a surprise winner. In 1894 the venue became the first outside of Scotland to host the event. This will be the 15th time the Open Championship has been played at the course on the English Channel.
For Hillier, this will be his second major championship after playing the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach while for Lawson, who has struggled with limited category on the European Tour in 2021, this will be his first.