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Larrazabal and Garcia secure Open berths; Cantlay breaks record

Rob Lee - Rob Lee Posted 29th June 2011 view comments

A few weeks ago Pablo Larrazabal lost in a play-off during an Open Championship qualifier at Sunningdale.

But the Spaniard's fortunes changed on Sunday when he beat his countryman, Sergio Garcia - in a play-off - to win the BMW International Open in Munich and book his place in next month's showpiece at Sandwich.

Larrazabal: into the Open

Larrazabal: into the Open

The drama of missing out followed by the drama of getting through all in such a short space of time - Larrazabal must have gone through every emotion possible. Yet, he'll be delighted that he gets to mix it with the big boys at the Open.

Solace

Sergio can take solace in defeat, though, because he also qualified for Royal St George's at the weekend. He has played in the last 48 majors and now he has booked number 49.

We mustn't forget that Sergio is only 31. You could argue that he's still got the best 10 years of his career to come.

Rob Lee
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I've been plugging him regularly in this column as I've felt that a big week for him is just around the corner. Finishing second is not a big week for him, however; he has grander things in mind.

He will put everything together and win an event soon - it might even be at the Open Championship, which he very nearly won in 2007. He doesn't need to pick his game up too much; it's just a matter of closing out tournaments.

We mustn't forget that Sergio is only 31. We still class Luke Donald as a youngster but Sergio is two years his junior. You could argue that he's still got the best 10 years of his career to come.

To see two Spaniards going toe-to-toe was fantastic and emphasises that nation's strength in depth at the moment.

Larrazabal's triumph was the third Spanish win on the European Tour this year after Pablo Martin took the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the combustible and exciting Alvaro Quiros won the Dubai Desert Classic. Along with the cigar-smoking veteran, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Spain have some terrific young players.

Maiden

Over at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, the headlines were made by a 36-year-old Swede and a 19-year-old college student.

The former, Fredrik Jacobson, won the event, his maiden victory on the PGA Tour. It took him just the 188 attempts!

Freddie did something he doesn't usually do last week - and that is make fairways. Usually you see him get up and down from near the ball washer because he's all over the place, but he played really well at the weekend and only hit one bogey over the course of four rounds.

His two shots into the last hole on Sunday to give him the opportunity for a two-putt win were tremendous; he can be very proud of himself. And I'm really pleased for him because he is a really funny guy, too.

The 19-year-old I alluded to was Patrick Cantlay, who went round the course in 60 on Friday to record the lowest-ever PGA Tour round by an amateur.

It was a pointer to everybody, as was his finish of 21st at the US Open, that he is a fantastic talent. It was a course set up to test the best players around - and he breezed through it.

Cantlay has said that he won't turn professional just yet and will finish off his studies at UCLA. I think that's a good idea because it would seem pointless to start a course and not finish it.

Everyone must go pro when it's right for them. Matteo Manassero did it early on and is already a winner on the European Tour. Ryo Ishikawa, who won an event on the Japan Golf Tour at just 15 years of age, did it early on and is also faring well.

But then there might be other cases where if players give themselves one more year to mature as a human being that will stand them in better stead.

Preparing

The PGA Tour heads to Pennsylvania this week for the AT&T National at the Aronimink Golf Club, an event that is hosted by Tiger Woods and benefits his foundation.

Due to his injuries, Tiger won't be playing and neither will any of the top-five ranked Americans - Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson are having a break, while Bubba Watson will be in France for the Alstom Open.

A lot of the higher-calibre players are now preparing for the Open Championship and I can see why they would take the week off. I'd do the same, before going over to Sandwich to get acclimatised to the conditions and mentally in-tune for the bigger challenge ahead.

Aronimink is hoping to stage a major championship in the future - with the 2018 US PGA being mooted as a possibility. I've never been there, but I've been told it's a wonderful course and could probably host a major tomorrow.

US military personnel have been given complimentary tickets to attend the event, which I think is a fantastic idea. They even get to queue jump - not that anyone minds. The service they carry out for their country means they should have plenty of fun when they are in their civil clothes.

The Americans have the right attitude with the way they facilitate their soldiers and veterans, and nearly every golf tournament in the States has some sort of service initiative. We Brits could learn a lot from the way the US treat and respect their forces.

ROB'S SKY BET TIPS

Ryan Moore played very well last week when coming third at the Travelers Championship. He'll certainly be a runner in Pennsylvania because he is such a steady tee-to-green player. He's 16/1 with Sky Bet.

Hunter Mahan is taking part and it's about time he started playing well again, while I think Adam Scott is set for a successful outing.

The Australian, who is 33/1 with Sky Bet, is working with Tiger's caddie Steve Williams; they almost clicked at the US Open and I think they could really hit it off this week, which could see Adam win the tournament.

Meanwhile, at the Alstom Open in France, I fancy Darren Clarke. A little birdie told me that he has been hitting the ball unbelievably well, plus he's already got himself in the winners' enclosure this year with victory at the Iberdrola Open last month.

See all the latest odds for the Alstom Open de France and AT&T National.

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