Next week's Australian Open first of 16 qualifiers for Open at Royal Portrush

Royal Portrush during the 2012 Irish Open
The Open Championship will return to Royal Portrush in 2019 after a 68-year gap

Next week's Australian Open will be the first of 16 worldwide events where non-exempt players can qualify for the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

The tournament at The Lakes in Sydney will begin a qualifying series in 11 countries, offering 46 Open places.

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

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.

The Open Qualifying Series will visit Spain for the first time in late June when the Valderrema Masters replaces the Open de France in the European Tour's schedule.

As is the case with the Irish Open and Scottish Open in early July, the Valderrama event will have three qualifying places.

The South African Open from 6-9 December will replace the Joburg Open as a qualifier following a merger of the two events while the Singapore Open, Mizuno Open in Japan and Korea Open will also have Portrush spots.

In addition to the worldwide qualifying events, there will also be regional and final qualifying events throughout Great Britain and Ireland.

The final qualifying competitions will take place at Fairmont St Andrews, Notts, Prince's and St Annes Old Links with three Portrush places available at each venue.

R&A Championships executive director Johnnie Cole-Hamilton said that an "exciting series of events is being eagerly anticipated".

"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," he added.

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.

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