Smith, Dartnall head chase at Open IFQ

Amateur Cameron Smith is tied for the lead with West Australian Stephen Dartnall after the first round of International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for The Open 2013 at Kingston Heath Golf Club in Melbourne.

The pair are leading the chase to gain the three places available in the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield (14-21 July) thanks to their 5-under-par rounds of 67.

Cameron Smith Cameron Smith (Credit: Anthony Powter)

At the conclusion of the 36-hole qualifying tournament, the leading three players will earn a start in golf’s oldest Major and the opportunity to play for the coveted Claret Jug.

Queenslander Cameron Smith, ranked 30th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), comes into IFQ fresh from winning the 2013 Australian Amateur Championship.

“To win a couple of weeks ago was definitely a confidence booster,” said Smith.

“It’s my dream to win The Open, so to play in it would be incredible. Just the history of it, I’m into that stuff.”

Experiencing a return to form, Dartnall was pleased with his score after a conservative round.

“I have been hitting the ball pretty well and just slowly working around the course — no heroics or anything too exciting, which is a good way to play,” said Dartnall, who has finished in the top-10 twice from his last three starts on the PGA Tour of Australasia.

“When there are only three spots for 70 guys, I guess you attack a little bit more but you still play pretty conservatively especially on a course like this.”

Dartnall, who has previously competed on the Web.Com Tour, is aiming to play in just his first Major.

“I have never played a Major so it would be fantastic.”

“Getting into the event is only the very start of it — obviously it’s good to play them but you want to get there and play well.”

Finishing a shot behind Dartnall and Smith were fellow Australians Steven Jeffress, Anthony Summers and Adam Bland.

Rounding out the top-5 on 3-under-par are Peter Wilson, David McKenzie, Anthony Brown, Scott Laycock, Matthew Griffin and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.

Two-time qualifier Kurt Barnes, who is the highest ranked player in the field, is poised at 2-under-par after closing with two birdies to keep him well in the hunt.