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McIlroy has Open Championship firmly on his mind

By Peter Hutcheon

Rory McIlroy begins his countdown to the Open Championship at St Andrews at the Alstom Open de France tomorrow.

The world number 10 has had a couple of weeks off since his disappointing US Open campaign and heads a healthy Ulster contingent in Paris which includes, Gareth Maybin, Darren Clarke and Michael Hoey.

Graeme McDowell has decided not to make the trip to Le Golf National this week after his US Open exertions and instead will return to action at the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare before playing next week’s Scottish Open.

Athlone’s Colm Moriarty secured one of the precious places at stake in local final qualifying yesterday — and did so in style.

With 72 players battling it out for just three spots at the Kingsbarns course in Scotland, Moriarty came top of the pile with splendid rounds of 67 and 70 for a 36-hole total of 137 — seven under par — finishing three strokes clear of the chasing pack which included Amateur Championship runner-up James Byrne.

Justin Rose pulled out of local final qualifying yesterday — despite not yet being assured of his place at St Andrews.

Rose is odds-on to take one of two spots on offer from a US Tour current form money list ending this weekend. The 30-year-old is playing at the AT&T National, as are Rickie Fowler, Ricky Barnes and Davis Love, all of whom could go past him with a top-two finish.

Amateurs Laurie Canter and Tyrell Hatton, Zane Scotland, Mark Haastrup, Phillip Archer, Simon Edwards, Paul Streeter, Gary Clark and Steven Tiley join Moriarty through qualifying.

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