Open Championship qualifying events begin for Royal Portrush

The Open Championship returns to the Northern Ireland venue after a 68-year gap, and will be played from 18-21 July
The Open Championship returns to the Northern Ireland venue after a 68-year gap, and will be played from 18-21 July

Next week's Australian Open will be the first of 16 worldwide events for non-exempt players to qualify for next year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Forty-six Open places are up for grabs as the qualifying series begins at The Lakes in Sydney.

Series changes see the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Canadian Open among PGA Tour events with qualifying spots.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational, won this year by Rory McIlroy, and Canadian Open will both have three Open spots with two Portrush berths available at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and a final place at the John Deere Classic on the eve of the 148th Open.

There will also be regional and final qualifying events throughout Great Britain and Ireland.

The leading three players in the top 10 in Sydney, not already exempt, will book spots at Royal Portrush in July.

"There is real excitement at the prospect of the Open returning to Northern Ireland for the first time in almost 70 years and it will undoubtedly act as an extra incentive for those players who are hopeful of teeing it up at the famous Dunluce links," said R&A Championships executive director Johnnie Cole-Hamilton .

The major, returning to the Northern Ireland venue after a 68-year gap, will be played from 18-21 July with Italy's Francesco Molinari defending the title.