By Tim Liotta
Sergio Garcia tops field of hopefuls for Royal Liverpool
Sergio Garcia and PGA Championship sensation Michael Block top a cast of characters ranging from former major champions to unknown amateurs vying for 19 open spots in the field of the 151st Open Championship across four Final Qualifying tournaments across England set for Tuesday.
Fields of 72 golfers are set to play at four venues - Dundonald Links, Royal Cinque Ports, Royal Porthcawl, and West Lancashire - in a mini-English version of "Golf's Longest Day," that saw 10 fields across the United States and Canada play their way into the 123rd U.S. Open.
Garcia tops a list of 21 LIV Golf Tour members sprinkled throughout the 288 playing for the final berths into this year's Open. He tees off at 7:20am at West Lankashire.
Aaron Rai, who just finished T9 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Sunday, is also in the field of hopefuls. Rai will attempt to shake off his jet lag beginning at 7:50am at Dundonald Links.
Garcia, who has plunged to 219th in the Official World Golf Rankings since joining LIV, was forced to qualify for the 2023 U.S. Open and finished T27 with rounds of 70-71-71-70 over the Los Angeles Country Club's North Course.
Remember, Sergio finished second two shots back of Rory McIlroy at the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, where this year's Open will be contested beginning on July 20.
Block, the 2022 Southern California PGA Player of the Year, went from nowhere to everywhere a golf fan turned on a television in May with a final-round hole-in-one that capped a week that saw him put together rounds of 70-70-70-71 to post one-over-par 281 and finish T15th in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country in Rochester, NY.
Block has been unable to duplicate his PGA Championship magic, missing the cut at a pair of PGA Tour events and failing to qualify for the U.S. Open. He starts his Final Qualifying day at 7:20am at Dundonald Links.
LIV's David Puig, who local qualified into the U.S. Open, made the cut and finished T27, will try and duplicate the feat at the Open. The former ASU star advanced out of local qualifying with an eagle-birdie finish to earn medalist honors at his event.
Amateur Barclay Brown, who qualified for the 123rd U.S. Open with a birdie on the 36th hole of Final Qualifying at the Hillcrest Country Club, will attempt to qualifay for his second Open Championship.
Brown played his last six holes in four-over-par to miss the U.S. Open's 36-hole cut by three shots. Brown was one of four players from the 2022-23 Stanford University men's golf team to qualify for the just-concluded U.S. Open, along with Michael Thorbjornsen, Karl Vilips and Alexander Yang.
Brown made the cut at the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews with rounds of 68-70, only to struggle on the weekend with a 77 and 75 to finish T79 at two-over-par 290.
The number of places in the field for the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool available through Final Qualifying has increased from 16 to 19, the R&A has confirmed.
A fifth qualifier will be allocated to three of the four venues being used for Final Qualifying based on a strength of field calculation, which will be carried out when all competing golfers have teed off in the first round and the actual field strength is known.