05 Jul 19
Paul O'Hara is hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on a chance to make his major debut by securing a spot in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open for the second time in three years.
The Tartan Tour No 1 is among the hopefuls in this weekend's 36-hole qualifier at Longniddry for the $7 million Rolex Series event, which is being held for the first time at The Renaissance Club next week.
O'Hara was one of the four qualifiers two years ago at Dundonald Links and once again has his sights set on rubbing shoulders with some of the world's top players, especially after missing out on an opportunity to play in the 148th Open at Royal Portrush.
Standing four-under with three holes to play in Tuesday's final qualifier at Fairmont St Andrews, the North Lanarkshire Leisure-attached player was in the mix for the third and final spot up for grabs.
But that went instead to one of his playing partners, last year's Silver Medal winner Sam Locke, after he signed off with three straight pars against three bogeys from O'Hara in a testing breeze on the Fife coast.
"Tuesday was disappointing as I played more than good enough to get through as I hardly missed a shot in 36 holes," reflected O'Hara of ending up in joint-seventh in the two-round scramble to get into the season's final major.
"At the end of the day, it was just a small putt missed at 16th and bogey from a simple chip at 17th that ended my hopes.
"Now I have the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open qualifier, which is a terrific event. I qualified a couple years ago, so have a good record.
"It is also a counting PGA in Scotland Order of Merit event for us, so gives me an added incentive as I want to qualify for the PGA Play-Offs for the fourth year in a row."
On a fast-running course, Duncan Stewart won last year's event at the same venue, beating Conor O'Neil in a play-off as they progressed to the main tournament at Gullane along with Jamie McLeary and Peter Whiteford.
"I am really looking forward to this weekend as I think it’s great to have all the best players in Scotland who are not in the ASI Scottish Open battle it out for the four spots," said Challenge Tour player Stewart.
"The standard on all tours this year has been incredible, so I think it’s going to be a very tight affair this year.
"It was great to win the qualifier last year, but the main objective was to finish in the top four and get in the main event and we are all really grateful that Aberdeen Standard Investments give us the opportunity to qualify.
"I really enjoy Longniddry. I played there on Tuesday and it’s looking in great shape again. It’s not as firm and bouncy as last year, but I was surprised to see that it’s still playing quite hard and fast.
"My season hasn’t really taken off yet which is frustrating but I feel my game is in good shape and it would mean a lot to get into the Scottish Open and play against the big names, which I get a real buzz from."
Connor Syme, who finished second in The Open qualifier at Fairmont St Andrews, has withdrawn from the Longniddry line up, but Locke is giving it a go and admitted: "It would be nice to make it two out of two in qualifiers this week."
Other hopefuls include former PGA champion Scott Drummond, while a strong amateur contingent is headed by Walker Cup squad member Kieran Cantley.
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