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Last Updated: Monday, 12 July, 2004, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Leonard slams qualifiers
Justin Leonard
Leonard's late charge in 1997 pipped Darren Clarke and Jesper Parnevik
Justin Leonard, who won the last Open played at Troon, has criticised the International Final Qualifying format.

The American told BBC Sport he was opposed to the idea of qualifiers held overseas, often on non-links courses.

"I find it a little odd," he said. "To try to qualify the week of the event on a links course is a better measure of who should be playing that week.

"There is nothing like qualifing on a links. Not only for the experience, but to get ready for the tournament."

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the Open's organisers, introduced the five IFQ events this year in an attempt to help foreign-based professionals qualify for Royal Troon.

The competitions held in Australia, Malaysia and South Africa were well attended and considered to be successes.

I really feel like if you have the ability to try to qualify, you should
Justin Leonard
But the American IFQ tournament was ruined by a host of late withdrawals, a situation that infuriated the many big names who failed to qualify from the high-quality field that assembled for the English IFQ event at Sunningdale.

The R&A's decision to allocate extra berths to these IFQ events had already annoyed traditionalists who prefer the time-honoured format of qualifying events held in the immediate vicinity of the championship course on the Sunday and Monday prior to the start of the Open.

The 32-year-old Leonard, who almost won a second Claret Jug in 1999 when he lost a play-off to Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie, said: "In 1995 and 1996 I was not exempt and made the trip over to qualify. I was able to qualify both times.

"I really feel like if you have the ability to try to qualify, you should.

"I learned in 1993 when I played as an amateur at Royal St George's how special the Open is and how much I wanted to be a part of it. I encourage guys to qualify every year."

Open no-shows criticised
07 Jul 04  |  Golf

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