THREE QUALIFIERS SET TO MAKE MAJOR DEBUTS AT ROYAL ST GEORGE’S

The Open

For Immediate Publication

THREE QUALIFIERS SET TO MAKE MAJOR DEBUTS AT ROYAL ST GEORGE’S

Floris de Vries of the Netherlands and South Africans Martin Maritz and Neil Schietekat have earned their first Major Championship appearances, after claiming the three places at Royal St George’s available at International Final Qualifying Africa.

Dutchman De Vries qualified comfortably, finishing four clear of the field. Yesterday’s round of 64 was followed by a three-under-par 68 for a 36-hole total of 10-under-par 132 on the 7,637-yard (6,983-metre), par-71 East Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

He opened with two bogeys in the first three holes, but cemented his position at the top with birdies on the fifth, sixth, eighth, 13th and 18th holes.

“It feels really great,” said the 21-year old, who graduated to the European Tour this year, after taking fourth place in the 2010 Challenge Tour Ranking “I sort of knew after yesterday that I could do it as I was playing really well, but it’s a great feeling and I can’t wait.”

Maritz’s impressive second round of 67 left him in tied-second, two clear of fourth place. The highlight was a holed bunker shot on the par-four 17th for a second consecutive birdie.

It was an impressive return to form for the 33-year-old, who endured a disappointing finish at last week’s Joburg Open, where he closed with a six-over par 77 having signed for a 62 on the first day. Open Championship qualification also vindicated his decision to return to competitive professional golf after a three-year hiatus where he worked as a club professional in the USA.

“When I stopped playing full-time three years ago, there were two things I was a bit disappointed about. One was not winning a tournament and the other was not playing in a Major,” he said. “So this is just fantastic.”

Schietekat faced a tense moment in the closing stages of his round, when he bogeyed the par-three 16th hole. A birdie on the 18th hole, however, made sure of his Open berth.

“I woke up this morning and said to my dad that after playing the Amateur at Royal St George’s, it would be quite ironic if I played my first Major there,” he said. “So I just went out today and fired five-under and it went my way.

“I played this course every Tuesday and Thursday morning, when I was an amateur, and I have just got to know it really well, so I look forward to playing it in competition every year,” added Schietekat, who finished tied-17th at last year’s Joburg Open and tied for 33rd last week.

The 2011 Open Championship will be held at Royal St George’s on 14 – 17 July.

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