By DOUG FERGUSON
The Associated Press
The British Open this year decided to scrap its 36-hole qualifiers on the European Tour and PGA Tour in favor of what effectively is 72-hole qualifiers. Four leading players from the top 12 on the leaderboard at Congressional and the Greenbrier earn spots. In Europe, the leading three players from the Irish Open, French Open and Scottish Open get into The Open. The John Deere Classic gets one spot.
It's the same amount of qualifying spots as were available last year through both 36-hole qualifiers.
But it eliminates any chance for Web.com Tour players, or for some of the top college players who turn pro in the summer. The only chance they have to qualify -- without a trip across the Atlantic -- is to get a spot in the PGA Tour (or European Tour) fields.
"These matters have been very much considered by the European Tour and the PGA Tour, and their request certainly has been to evolve from what we were with the 36-hole stand-alone into the series we have now," R&A executive director Michael Tate said Tuesday. "They don't have that simple opportunity. They can, of course, still travel to the UK and qualify. But I understand how difficult that is.
"I think in the world of the game of golf, what we achieved and what we are doing now is probably correct."
Indeed, 288 players currently are playing for 12 spots at four regional spots in Britain the next two days. A decade ago, local qualifying was the only way into The Open, and it was held the weekend before the championship.
MATCH PLAY: There's still no word on a title sponsor, though the Match Play Championship at least has a spot on the 2015 schedule.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that Harding Park will host the Match Play next year. The only open date for it is May 13-17, when the weather is ideal in the Bay Area. It would be a huge coup for Harding Park, which also is getting the PGA Championship in 2020 and the Presidents Cup in 2025.
It would be the second World Golf Championship for Harding Park. Tiger Woods beat John Daly in the American Express Championship in 2015.
A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday. The PGA Tour had no comment.
The Match Play Championship had been held the last eight years at Dove Mountain north of Tucson, Arizona, and the field was beginning to lose top stars amid complaints of the golf course. Among those who missed last year were Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson.
A move to San Francisco would cause a lot of congestion for May. It would follow the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and The Players Championship in Florida. The PGA Tour would go from California to Texas the next two weeks.
WATSON'S HOPES: Tom Watson has played 36 times in the British Open, but only four rounds at Royal Liverpool. That's mainly because it was out of the Open rotation from 1967 until 2006. Watson tied for 48th with no rounds in the 60s in 2006.
But he saw enough of it to believe that age 64, he can contend -- especially if it's firm.
Watson concedes that he doesn't have the distance to compete with players more than half of his age. Then again, Tiger Woods only used a driver one time when he won eight years ago.
"One of the things about playing Hoylake is I don't hit the ball far enough to have to lay up with the driver," he said. "So go ahead and hit the driver. The driver is one of the strong suits of my game, so that fits right in against some of the kids. They have to kind of guess what to lay up with. I just go ahead and hit the driver out there. The course plays simpler for me than it does the kids."
LPGA SELFIE: Karrie Webb took a selfie when she won the JTBC Founders Cup, not realizing how quickly it would catch on.
It now is one of the best traditions going in golf.
LPGA photographer Gabe Roux shot the photo of Webb taking her own picture with her cellphone, and the LPGA immediately posted it to its social media channels. Since then, every LPGA Tour winner has taken a selfie with the trophy.
That included Michelle Wie at the U.S. Women's Open, and the USGA asked the LPGA to be sure to tag them to the photo on Twitter.
SLOW START: Justin Rose opened with a 74 on his way to a playoff win at the Quicken Loans National. That was the highest first-round score by a PGA Tour winner this year. And it was only the second time a player shot over par in the opening round and went on to win.
John Senden opened with a 1-over 72 when he won the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, and Adam Scott shot a 1-over 71 when he won at Colonial.
DIVOTS: Henrik Stenson, who lived in Dubai with his family before moving to Orlando, Florida, has signed a two-year partnership with Jumeirah Golf Estates. ... Justin Thomas has shot par or better in 39 of his 41 rounds on the Web.com Tour this year. The exceptions were both 1-over 73 in the third round in Panama and Midland, Texas. He is 78-under par for the year and No. 7 on the money list, virtually assured of a PGA Tour card next season. ... Jimmy Walker has been atop the FedEx Cup all but one week this year. Walker and Bubba Watson (No. 2) are playing The Greenbrier Classic this week. ... No one had a bogey-free round at Congressional on the weekend.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Martin Kaymer won The Players Championship and Bernhard Langer won the Senior Players Championship, the first time the winners have come from the same country other than the United States.
FINAL WORD: "You get used to scoring how you're scoring." -- Geoff Ogilvy, who has only four scores in the 60s in his last 28 rounds on the PGA Tour.