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Davis Love still aiming to snatch Open spot

Updated: Wednesday, 10 Jul 2013 15:12 | Comments

Davis Love still hasn't given up hope on earning an Open place
Davis Love still hasn't given up hope on earning an Open place

Former Ryder Cup captain Davis Love will have to win this week's John Deere Classic to maintain his amazing streak of Open Championship appearances.

Love has played in 26 consecutive Opens since his debut in 1987, but the 49-year-old will not be at Muirfield next week unless he can claim a first PGA Tour victory since 2008 in Illinois.

Open Championship organisers reduced the number of exemptions into this year's event after almost having too many players at Royal Lytham in 2012.

Four changes have been made to the qualifying criteria, with the most significant involving the events leading up to the third major championship of the year.

Previously a place in the Open was given to a player, not otherwise exempt, finishing in the top five of the Greenbrier Classic and John Deere Classic, but that has been cut back to the winner of the latter only.

"Last year at Lytham we were given something of a fright because the way the exemptions fell at one point we had 161 competitors, but because of scratching and injuries we got back down to our usual field of 156," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said earlier this year.

"That has caused us to look at our exemptions and cut them back this year because we wanted to maintain the number of qualifying places through international qualifying and local qualifying that we had committed to."

Love can at least take comfort from his performance in the Greenbrier Classic last week, where he shot three rounds in the 60s to finish in a tie for ninth.

However, his two playing partners at Deere Run have won the event for the last four years between them, former Masters champion Zach Johnson winning last year after a hat-trick of victories by Steve Stricker.

"I love the golf course," Johnson told a pre-tournament press conference. "It's in great shape, as usual, and I just like coming back and seeing faces and friends and family. It feels like my backyard in a lot of respects and fortunately I've had some success here.

"But I'm trying to put 2012 behind me. It's not like just because I won I've got a three-shot lead going into Thursday, so I frankly have to put it behind me, and that's going to be my approach."

Former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is also in the field as he looks to rediscover top form after the hip injury which forced him to withdraw from the US Open after an opening 75 at Merion.

"I'm still struggling a bit with my left hip but it's more on walking, not on the golf, not on the hitting the ball itself," the South African said. "But I've got the physio with me so we'll do a bit of work on it.

"My game really felt okay the last few months, but the injury has been really keeping me back and I couldn't really get going. I played really well last week (finishing 17th at the Greenbrier). I just struggled a bit on the greens but I am looking forward to this week and next week."

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