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An Open Invitation

Should players be invited to major competitions when others fail to qualify?

Posted Jul 06, 2011 by Chris White

Vijay Singh is one of the players offered an invitation but is struggling with injury

A number of players who have originally missed out on this year’s Open Championship have been handed invitations to take part thanks to exemptions and withdrawals, but should players be given invitations or should they have to qualify like everyone else?

One of the men to be given an invitation to the competition at Royal St George’s is former world number one Vijay Singh. The Fijian, who was joint-second at the last Open to be staged at Royal St Georges, is now 48 years old, pulled out of last week’s AT&T National with a back problem, and may not be fit enough to take part at Sandwich, but organisers have still offered an invitation to the Masters and two-time USPGA winner.

Singh was joined on the list of invites by Webb Simpson, JB Holmes, Steve Marino and Yuta Ikeda, with Australian Brendan Jones now the official ‘first reserve’ and set to come in to replace another former world number one, Tiger Woods, who has failed to recover from his knee and achilles injuries.

Woods said he wouldn’t take part unless he is completely 100% fit and confirmed his withdrawal on Tuesday afternoon (5th July). Another who could be forced to miss the Open is Frenchman Thomas Levet, who injured himself in bizarre fashion after winning at Le Golf National. Levet, who clinched a one shot win over his playing partner, ended a 25-year wait to win his home tournament, and celebrated by jumping into a lake – only to pick up a small fracture to his shin, leaving him in danger of missing the Open.

Jose Maria Olazabal, the next captain of the European Ryder Cup team, is definitely out of the Open, having been struck by the recurring rheumatic problems that have dogged the last decade of his career.

The spaces for the additional players came about thanks to withdrawals from players including Sir Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, and major winners Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, KJ Choi and Luke Donald, who were exempt from qualifying because of their victories.

The question remains, however, over whether players should be given invitations to play in major competitions, when there are specific ‘invitational’ tournaments out there. Players went through the gruelling process of qualifying tournaments to make the Open and missed out by as little as one shot in some cases, but players such as Singh have been given an invitation to play. That doesn’t seem fair to me. In my opinion, the fairest way to do it would have been to have possibly gone down the line of the best runners up in qualification tournaments, or, if you’re going to invite players, invite the top youngsters from that country to take part and see how they fair on the biggest stage.

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