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Greenbrier Classic a direct qualifier for British Open

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Greenbrier Classic's role in qualifying players for the British Open has been redefined with the announcement of the Open Qualifying Series.

The R&A, the Open's governing body, announced its new qualifying format for the 2014 Open Championship, which will turn 14 tournaments in nine countries into direct qualifiers.

From those finishing in the top 12 and ties in the 2014 Classic, scheduled July 3-6, the top four not already exempt will head to the Open, two weeks later at Royal Liverpool.

Last year, five Open tickets were punched after the Classic, but the method cannot be easily compared to the new format. Those five were taken from the top five, not already exempt, in the FedExCup standings as of the Classic's conclusion.

Essentially, Jimmy Walker played himself into the Open with a second-place finish and knocked out Charles Howell III, who missed the cut. Billy Horschel and Boo Weekley played in the Classic but were safe, and Russell Henley maintained his place with a top-30 finish. Harris English didn't even play in the Classic, but still punched his ticket.

Now, players who come to the Old White TPC with a spot in the Open field have a direct shot, without the convolution.

"It is an honor and a privilege to be one of only three tournaments selected to represent the PGA Tour within the new Open Qualifying Series," said Jim Justice, chairman and owner of The Greenbrier resort. "The tournament's participation in the Series will only help to increase the caliber of players in what is already one of the most competitive fields on Tour and add to the excitement of the event for our fans."

That probably will boost the depth of the field, though not necessarily the star power. The British possesses the most worldwide presence of the four major tournaments, and many of the Americans ranked 51st through 100th will struggle to make the field.

Then again, those winning majors in recent years, the top 30 in the 2013 FedExCup ranking and the world's top 50 on a certain date have automatic berths. Those players would come to Old White for Ryder Cup points, for FedExCup positioning or simply because they love the place.

The tournament prior to the Classic, the AT&T National in Bethesda, Md., will qualify up to four in the same manner. One spot will be open at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill., just before the Open.

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock


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