Relaxed approach pays off for Mark Brown

BIG TIME: Mark Brown has qualified for the British Open.
BIG TIME: Mark Brown has qualified for the British Open.

Standing on the first tee at Kingston Heath in Melbourne yesterday, Wellington golfer Mark Brown just wanted to blaze away and have some fun.

It soon got serious, but the birdies still kept rolling in and four hours later he had a course record 10-under par 62 to his name and, more importantly, a spot in the British Open at Muirfield in July.

Brown was tied for 27th at even-par heading into yesterday's second and final round at the International Final Qualifying event and knew he needed to go low to have any chance of claiming one of just three spots available for the 72-strong field.

In his words, he had "an awesome day". He fired in eight birdies and an eagle in a flawless round to finish at 10-under and win the 36-hole tournament by one shot.

In setting a course record at Kingston Heath, which has played host to some of golf's best, the 37-year-old booked his second British Open start. He didn't make the cut in his only appearance, at Turnberry in 2009 when playing fulltime on the European Tour.

"I had a mate caddying for me and he just said ‘have a laugh'. I was playing with another good mate, Neven Basic from Australia, and we just wanted to have a laugh," Brown said.

"And all of a sudden you're doing all right and it gets very serious, but I just went out and gave it a whack and luckily everything went well.

"I was even-par yesterday so I had to go out and blaze away. These qualifying days are pretty hit or miss, there are only three spots for 70-odd guys."

Four birdies and an eagle, at the par-five seventh, had him well on his way as he turned in six-under 30.

The former European Tour winner then made birdies at the 11th, 12th, 14th and 16th coming home to sign for a 62.

"I just kept pushing and managed to get to 10-under, which is pretty low, especially around here. It's a tough course but it was a cracking day, no wind, which you don't often get, and the course was there for the taking."

He said the course record was "up there" with his career highlights.

"I think it's ranked the No 2 course in Australia. I finished third here at the Australian Masters last year so I like the course, but to hold a course record where a lot of great players have played is a great thrill."

Apart from Turnberry, Brown's only other appearance at a major was at the PGA Championship in Michigan in 2008. He finished tied for 24th.

Ryan Fox was the next best of the Kiwis, finishing tied for 15th at three-under after an even-par 72 yesterday, while Mike Hendry shared 26th at one-under.

Australians Steve Jeffress (nine-under) and Stephen Dartnall (eight-under) claimed the other two spots. Fairfax NZ

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