[PHOTO: Luke Walker/R&A]

When Justin Rose tied for fourth and earned low-amateur honours at the 1998 Open Championship as a 17-year-old, it appeared as though the young Englishman would be playing in Opens for the next few decades. Save for a rough three-year stretch between 2004 and 2006, that was pretty much the case up until 2022.

That year, Rose had to withdraw from the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews with an injury, though he returned in 2023 at Royal Liverpool to compete in his 20th career Open, earning an exemption as a top-50 player in the Official World Golf Ranking. This year, however, the 43-year-old found himself on the outside looking in, ranking 56th in the world in Week 21, when players must be inside of the top 50 to earn an exemption.

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Despite his name recognition, and a résumé that includes a US Open trophy, an Olympic gold medal, a world No.1 designation, endless Ryder Cup highlights and 22 combined victories on the PGA and DP World Tours, Rose was in danger of missing his second Open in three years, and this time not for an injury. He had only one option left – Final Qualifying.

Open Championship Final Qualifying consists of 288 players spread across four different venues with 16 spots at Royal Troon up for grabs, four spots at each venue. Rose teed it up on Tuesday at Burnham & Berrow against a 72-man field that included the likes of LIV golfers Anirban Lahiri and Abraham Ancer, as well as names only diehard golf fans might remember, like Chris Wood and Justin Harding.

Rose, who has just one top-10 finish in 2024, shot rounds of 66 and 68 on the 36-hole qualifying day to earn co-medallist honours with fellow Brit Dominic Clemons, an amateur from Cambridge who is a junior-to-be at the University of Alabama. It will be Clemons’ first Open Championship, while Rose will be playing in his 21st.

“It is super-exciting to have gotten through this,” Rose told SkySports afterwards. “It is a tough day, made the trek down yesterday to get a practice round in. That was obviously really, really valuable for me. I forgot how much of a proper links golf course this is, blind shots, awkward wind directions off your left shoulder. Really, really tough.

“I felt like yesterday I played awful,” he added. “But came out [on Tuesday], re-adjusted to the heavy wind that I played in. Proper links golf. Super-valuable day, getting that out of my system yesterday.”

In addition to his top-five finish as an amateur, Rose has four other finishes of T-13 or better in The Open in his career, the most recent coming in 2018 when he tied for second at Carnoustie.

“I still feel like I can win The Open,” said Rose. “To be in it to win it, you’ve got to be in it. That was key today, to come here and get that job done and give myself an opportunity at that dream.”

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As for Lahiri and Ancer, they both shot five-under, which placed them in a three-for-two playoff with Sweden’s Charlie Lindh. Lahiri failed to par the first playoff hole while Ancer and Lindh did make par, earning them spots at Royal Troon. This will be Ancer’s first major start of 2024. It will be Lindh’s first major start of his career.

Elsewhere, at West Lancashire, Sergio Garcia came up two shots short of a playoff, meaning he will miss his second straight Open after failing to qualify. Prior to that, the Spaniard had played in 24 consecutively.

Fellow major winner and fellow LIV golfer Graeme McDowell also failed to qualify, shooting one-over-par at Royal Clinque Ports. South Africa’s Branden Grace also failed to qualify at that venue, narrowly missing out in a playoff. Other notables to miss out include Eugenio Chacarra, Thomas Detry, Carlos Ortiz and Peter Uihlein.