British Open organisers announce revised qualifying format

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London (AFP)

British Open organisers the R&A have announced a revised qualifying format for this year's tournament as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Four English courses -- Hollinwell, Prince's, St Annes Old Links and West Lancashire -- will host both regional and final qualifying with the aim of ensuring government health measures are consistent across venues.

Organisers last month said they were planning for a "full-scale" championship at Royal St George's in July following last year's cancellation due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Golfers entering regional qualifying for the Open -- the only one of golf's four majors played outside the United States -- will compete over 18 holes of strokeplay at one of the four venues on June 26 or 27.

Successful qualifiers will then contest final qualifying over 36 holes at the same venue on June 29.

A minimum of eight places in the 149th Open at Royal St George's in Kent, southeast England, from July 15 to 18, will be on offer through final qualifying, with a starting field of 288 across the four venues.

Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, executive director of championships at the R&A, said: "We recognise that health measures could continue this summer and so we have developed alternative plans for regional and final qualifying based on guidance from the UK government and our medical advisers.

"The health and wellbeing of everyone involved in these events is our top priority and having them played at a reduced number of venues with the required health and safety protocols in place will ensure people are protected."

Royal St George's has hosted the British Open 14 times, most recently in 2011, when Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke won the event.