WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
The Greenbrier Classic has a new role beginning next summer.
The annual PGA Tour competition in White Sulphur Springs is one of 10 events on five continents that will determine 32 spots in the British Open, golf’s oldest championship.
Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson said Monday the reasons for the change include building more interest in the weeks leading up to the British Open to give players a more rigorous test over 72 holes at a tour event instead of 36 holes of qualifying.
The new system will be called the “Open Qualifying Series,” and it starts next month at the Australian Open.
The qualifying places available for The Greenbrier Classic will be given to the four leading players, not otherwise exempt, who finish in the top 12 and ties at the completion of tournament play.
The fifth Greenbrier Classic is scheduled for June 30-July 6, 2014.
Jim Justice, chairman and owner of The Greenbrier, said, “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.”
“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.”
The other two PGA Tour stops in the new series are the AT&T National, which will also produce four qualifiers, and the John Deere Classic, a week before the Open, for which one spot will be available.
Other spots will come from competition in the Irish Open, French Open, Scottish Open, from South Africa, and from the Mizuno Open in Japan and Thailand on the Asian Tour.
The only 36-hole qualifying that remains will be 12 spots available from four links courses just before the British Open. They will become permanent sites.
The next British Open, known internationally as The Open Championship, takes place at Royal Liverpool-Hoylake on July 13-20, 2014.
Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, said, “We welcome this initiative from The R&A which will offer qualifying places at three events on the PGA Tour in the lead-up to The Open.”
“This will give the players a clear pathway to secure their place in The Open at three prestigious events and create some added interest as players try to qualify for the world’s oldest major championship.”
A U.S. qualifier near Dallas had been held in May for the convenience of players, nearly two months before the Open.
Dawson said the golf schedules around the world were getting more crowded, another reason why he felt it made sense to blend in tour events with qualifying.
AP golf writer Doug Ferguson was primary contributor to this story.