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Pros make most of British Open shot

SANDWICH, England -- Kyle Stanley had his passport, but not much else. When he headed to the John Deere Classic last week, he didn't expect to be boarding a charter plane on Sunday night for England.

Stanley, a rookie on the PGA Tour, had no idea he could earn his way into the Open Championship field, short of a victory.

So he was pleasantly surprised to learn that his runner-up finish to Steve Stricker had a consolation prize, his first trip to the Open and Royal St. George's.

And he was glad to be doing laundry near Sandwich.

Like several players in the field, Stanley, 25, made good use of his late spot in the field, shooting 2-under-par 68 to trail first-round leaders Thomas Bjorn and amateur Tom Lewis by three strokes.

"It's great. I didn't expect to be here and now I am," said Stanley, who was tied for sixth. "And I just hope to take advantage of the opportunity."

Bjorn didn't get into the field until Monday, when Vijay Singh withdrew due to injury. Same for Simon Dyson, who also was three strokes back and was an alternate who benefited from a David Toms back injury.

And then there was Ricky Barnes, the first alternate on site. He didn't get into the field until Thursday, when Nicolas Colsaerts withdrew due to lingering injuries suffered in a recent scooter accident.

Colsaerts waited as long as possible but finally withdrew early Thursday afternoon, giving Barnes some time to warm up before a 2:54 p.m. (local) tee time.

The tournament co-leader Bjorn did not end up being the last player into the field -- that turned out to be Barnes -- but he was close enough, not learning until Monday that Singh had withdrawn, opening a spot that he claimed due to his standing on an alternate list taken from the world rankings.

"I just kind of promised myself to try and enjoy it," said Bjorn, 40, who famously blew the Open here eight years ago, squandering a three-shot lead with four holes to play. "I really wasn't over-expecting to play in this championship. There were a lot of pull-outs in the last week leading into this.

"So never really expected to play in it. There's no reason to get too uptight. I knew I wasn't coming in in the greatest form, so just try and enjoy being down here and try to use it more to find some form."

That seemed to be the theme of those who a week ago were not expecting to be in the 140th Open Championship.

Dyson, 33, is a four-time European Tour winner who also had to sweat out the withdrawal process, although he knew he was in sooner than Bjorn.

The progression went like this: When Tiger Woods withdrew last week due to in lingering knee and Achilles injuries, Brendan Jones got the spot, but he declined due to his wife's pregnancy. So Jason Dufner got in the field.

Thomas Levet withdrew, leading to Robert Garrigus' spot; Tim Clark's WD meant Anthony Kim was in; Toms' WD led to Dyson's spot, then Singh bowed out, giving Bjorn a chance.

Scott Verplank was the next alternate, but he elected to stay at home and play in this week's Viking Classic on the PGA Tour. So Barnes was the beneficiary when Colsaerts did not go and he also finished at 2 under, in a tie for sixth.

"It's just nice to be in it," Dyson conceded. "We go on the first tee and my caddie said just enjoy it. Just pleased to be here because we weren't meant to be in it. And I felt really relaxed on the first tee this morning, probably more so than I've done the last few weeks, which was nice. And it seemed to show in my game.

"I was going to go down to Spain and just have a few days down there with my wife. So we're just going to go next week instead, so it's not a big deal."

Well it is now, at least in terms of being in contention at the Open.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.