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  Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Cejka bends the rules
Alex Chejka failed to sign his card at the Scottish Open
Alex Chejka failed to sign his card at the Scottish Open
By BBC Sport Online's Stuart Roach at Lytham.

Alex Cejka's lofty position on the leaderboard this week has highlighted a major flaw in The Open qualifying system.

Cejka came through regional qualifying last week to legitimately claim his place in the 156-man field.

But he had to risk a rap from the European Tour to get there, by pulling out of the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond when the chance of an Open exemption had gone.


It was a tough decision and I did not know what to do
Alex Cejka on his Open dilemma
The Czech-born German survived the cut at Loch Lomond but knew he had no real chance of securing the top-15 finish that would guarantee an automatic passage to Royal Lytham.

Conveniently, he "forgot" to sign his card on Friday and his subsequent disqualification came in time for him to play in the qualifiers.

"It was a very tough decision and I did not really know what to do," said Cejka.

But his decision may now prompt the Royal and Ancient to review their qualifying regulations for The Open after a stream of criticism this year.

Open to criticism

Resident Lytham professional Paul Eales, who missed out on qualifying for the tournament in his own back yard, was upset at the limited number of qualifying places up for grabs.

"The championship should be exactly what it was always meant to be - open," he said in criticism of the number of tournament exemptions.

Cejka now faces a tour fine for his rule bending, but he is hardly a player who fears authority.


Bernhard Langer is sort of my idol
Alex Cejka
At the age of 10, he defected to Germany from the Czech Republic with his father, swimming across a river to complete a dramatic escape from his native country.

"I was too young to understand what was going on. We were on holiday in Yugoslavia and we somehow managed to get across.

"Finally, my dad hugged me and said 'we did it' and that was it.

"I remember swimming across the river and remember a train ride but I do not remember where we were."

Cejka returned to live in Prague four years ago but considers himself a German and was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with his idol Bernhard Langer at the top of Saturday's leaderboard.

"I consider myself German. I have a German passport and, for me, it does not matter whether you fly to a tournament from Frankfurt, Prague or London.

"When I grew up and started my career in Germany, Bernhard was already a top player.

"It was always nice to watch him and he is sort of my idol, so I'm glad I can play the tour now and play on the same events as him."


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