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Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Irishman David Higgins penalized

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

European Tour player David Higgins derailed his chances of playing in The Open Championship when he discovered a 15th club in his bag while competing on the first sudden-death playoff hole of a local qualifier in Scotland on Tuesday.

Higgins, 40, an Irishman ranked 695th in the world and twice played in the Open, was in a three-man playoff for two spots at North Berwick when he discovered an extra club in his bag. Higgins apparently put the club back in his bag after the 36-hole qualifier was completed.

The penalty for an extra club is two strokes, meaning Gareth Wright, who birdied the hole, and George Murray, who parred it, advanced.

"Obviously, it's magic to play in the Open and I'm really excited,'' Murray told the Open's website. "I do feel bad about what happened to David, but he was totally honest and came straight out with it when he realized his mistake.''

According to an Open Championship press officer, Higgins put the club in his bag himself, thinking he was done with play for the day.

Only three players from each of four local qualifying venues advance to the Open at Muirfield on July 18-21.

Former Euorpean Ryder Cup captains Colin Montgomerie and Mark James were among those who failed to advance from Gullane No. 1. Montgomerie, who recently turned 50 and tied for ninth last week at the Senior Players Championship, opened with a 69 but could do no better than 76 in the afternoon.

Montgomerie was 5-under par through 12 holes but bogeyed four of the next five holes and stalled in the afternoon.

"I threw it away,'' said Montgomerie, who is scheduled to return to the U.S. next week for the U.S. Senior Open and missed qualifying by four shots. "It's not my schedule. I just played badly this afternoon. I didn't get going at all. It's very disappointing being 5 under.''

Amateurs Ben Stow and Matthew Fitzpatrick gained two of the spots at Gullane, along with Sweden's Oscar Floren.

England's Steven Tilley led the way at The Musselburgh, with Lloyd Saltman and Tyrell Hatton earning the other two spots at that venue.

At Dunbar, local palyer Grant Forrest shot 67-65 and was joined in the Open field by India's Shiv Kapur and Australian John Wade.

Amateur Jimmy Mullen was the medalist at North Berwick.

The only other ways to gain entry into The Open Championship field at this point are to win next week's John Deere Classic (PGA Tour) or Scottish Open (European Tour); or to be among the top five players (among the top 20) not otherwise exempt on the FedEx Cup points list or European Tour's Race to Dubai money list as of Sunday.