Local golfers to qualify for prestigious British Open via Malaysian Open?

KUALA LUMPUR: If all goes well, some Malaysian professional golfers will have a chance to qualify for next year's British Open, one of the four majors in men's golf, from the comfort of their home soil.

Efforts are currently underway for the Malaysian Open, set for a much-anticipated return after a four-year hiatus from Feb 15-18 next year, to serve as one of the qualifying sites for the 152nd edition of the world's oldest golf tournament at the Royal Troon Golf Club in South Ayrshire, Scotland, from July 18-21.

Today, the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) officially announced that the 56th edition of the national Open will take place at the Mines Resort and Golf Club in Seri Kembangan.

During a press conference, local investment company, IRS Prima Holding Sdn Bhd, was unveiled as the title sponsor for the US$1 million (RM4.6 million) event, which will serve as the season-opener for the 2024 Asian Tour season.

IRS Prima has provided a much-needed boost and stability for the Malaysian Open by committing to a three-year deal, ensuring the event will run until 2026.

After parting ways with long-time backer Maybank in 2015, the Malaysian Open was held only once in the last eight years, with the last edition in March, 2020, at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club in Shah Alam.

With MGA's flagship tournament back, MGA president Tan Sri Anwar Mohd Nor pledged that more playing opportunities will be given to local golfers to compete with the Asian Tour elites, with a guaranteed 18 spots for Malaysians in the 156-man event.

"Traditionally, we would make 18 slots available for local golfers, including four for amateurs," said Anwar.

"But we have spoken to the Asian Tour, and they are willing to hand out more spots for Malaysians who may not qualify via certain criteria set, through sponsor exemptions. So, the ballpark number we're looking at should be between 25 and 28.

"Our golfers will benefit extensively from this opportunity and the experience of competing against the best on the Asian Tour. We hope to see our players rise and deliver their best performance and even challenge for the top spots."

The local charge is expected to be spearheaded by Ben Leong, Shahrifuddin Ariffin and Ervin Chang, all of whom are Asian Tour cardholders.

National No. 1 Gavin Green could also play as the DP World Tour (European Tour) does not have an event scheduled for that week.

However, the much-awaited development for the tournament will be if The R&A, the organisers of the British Open, gives the green light for the Malaysian Open to be included as one of the 12 international qualifying sites, three of which are held in Asia.

"Traditionally, each site offers between two and four spots. If the Malaysian Open becomes a qualifier for the British Open, it will undoubtedly enhance its prestige, and we can anticipate an even stronger field for the forthcoming edition."

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