Australians Millar, Barnes and Kulacz earn Open places at IFQ

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Australians Matt Millar, Kurt Barnes and Rick Kulacz have earned their places in the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s, following 36 holes of International Final Qualifying Australasia at Kingston Heath Golf Club, today.

Despite a bogey-bogey finish on the 7,062-yard (6,455-metre), par-72 Melbourne Sandbelt course, Millar’s 10-under-par total of 134 left him clear at the top of the leaderboard; the 34-year-old securing his first appearance in a Major Championship. Barnes finished one stroke back on nine under par after two rounds with his Mizuno MP-68 Irons.

The third and final Open berth was settled by a play-off between Stephen Leaney and Rick Kulacz, after both finished on eight under par. Both parred the first extra hole, but Kulacz prevailed on the second, after Leaney missed his putt for par. Like Millar, 25-year-old Kulacz will be making his Major Championship debut at Sandwich in July.

For Canberra’s Millar, the result crowns a memorable week in which his wife gave birth to their second child, Charlotte.

“My wife gave birth on Wednesday so I haven’t had a chance to play much golf and practice, so maybe that’s the secret for me,” he explained. “I can’t wait. This has been a goal I set this year and it’s good to achieve one, so now I can move on to the next one.

“I’ve played a bit of golf over in Britain when I was on Tour but never at Royal St George’s, so I’m really looking forward to the experience.”

Barnes, 29, ensures his second Open start in as many years, and the New South Welshman is determined to learn from the lessons of his 2010 experience.

 “Kingston Heath has really suited my game over the last couple of years, I put in some hard work and it’s really paying off,” said Barnes. “It’s great. It was my aim to qualify and to put in some hard yards this year, so I can get over there and play well and make the most of the opportunity.”

The third of the qualifiers, Kulacz, was thrilled with the result, particularly as he has not been playing his best golf of late.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be on the first tee of the play-off, but I have been battling hooks, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d hit it 70 metres left,” he said.

“My first Major; it’s going to be great. An Australian has won there before, so I’m really looking forward to what it’s all about.”

The next International Final Qualifying event of 2011 takes place in Africa on Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 January at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

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