While playing in the Open Championship is the dream of just about any golf professional, Graham van der Merwe was happy to defer the dream for a while after his first round in this week’s Joburg Open.
Van der Merwe, playing on his home course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, carded a six-under-par 65 round the par-71 West Course, and, while he was doing his bit for the media after the round, someone asked him how he felt about his chances of qualifying for the Open Championship if he performed well in the Joburg Open.
The Open Qualifying Series replaces International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for The Open Championship which was introduced in 2004 and involved 36-hole qualifying events in Africa, Australasia, Asia, America, and Europe, with Royal Johannesburg & Kensington hosting the Africa events in 2006-2008 and 2010-2013.
“That would be looking way too far ahead,” said Van der Merwe when he was reminded what else was at stake over and above the €1.3-million prize find. “I really need to stick to the ‘now’,” he added.
“I never actually played the International Final Qualifying in South Africa when that was the way into the Open,” he said. “So I don’t know what that was like, but this way seems very different. But for me – the final round, maybe, I can look at thinking about qualifying. Right now, I have to think about the tournament.
“To get into the Open, that would be unreal. It could happen, but it’s something I hadn’t even thought about. It’s still pie in the sky for me.”
When the tournament concludes on Sunday, three competitors who finish in the top 10 and ties that are not already exempt will qualify for the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake from 13-20 July 2014. The Joburg Open is the second event in the new Open Qualifying Series which consists of 14 events in nine countries on five continents.