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Flying by British fairways

Pen in hand, he was filling out the application just the other day, all the while trying to ignore the disappointing dilemma that he faces. Brad Faxon has a burning passion for the British Open and if it means flying overseas for a local qualifier that doesn't award very many spots, so be it. He'll do it.

"I can't tell you how much I want to play St. Andrews," said Faxon.

The game's most storied championship in July will return to the cradle of golf, the legendary links course on the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Tiger Woods will return to the site of his extraordinary 2000 triumph, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, and Phil Mickelson will be there, too, and tears will surely flow when Jack Nicklaus walks the Swilken Bridge for one last time.

Faxon wants to be part of it all. He just doesn't have a berth in the field.

"I can still play my way, by getting into the top 50 in the world rankings," said Faxon, currently 77th. "That would be one way to solve all the problems."

Having failed to earn a spot into the Masters for just the second time since 1992 ("That hurts, too. But let's not talk about the Masters," he said), Faxon will head into a stretch of tournaments -- the MCI Heritage, New Orleans, Wachovia, the Byron Nelson, Colonial -- with a goal of moving up in the world rankings to avoid qualifiers for both the US Open and British Open. But because there are deadlines, Faxon has had to take that unpleasant step of filling out entry forms for qualifiers.

The US Open qualifier was easy enough to do, but the British Open wasn't, for reasons that are part of his doing.

Faxon is cohost of the popular CVS Charity Classic at his home course, Rhode Island CC, a two-day gathering of 20 PGA Tour members to have fun and raise money. As cohost, he helped pick the dates (June 27-28), so when he slipped out of the top 50 in the world rankings and started paying attention to the qualifiers, you can imagine how he felt when he looked at the schedule. The British Open qualifier on US soil is June 27.

"The funny thing is, it's at Canoe Brook [in Summit, N.J.], where I qualified for the US Open as an amateur in 1981," said Faxon.

There was no decision to be made. The CVS Charity Classic is what he's committed to and he'll be the perfect cohost again. But he wasn't going to brush off the Open Championship; Faxon said he would fly to Scotland and take on the challenge that is local qualifying.

Never an easy task, that route is even harder now because there are fewer spots. Two years ago, the Royal & Ancient decided international qualifiers made it easier on players, so they awarded them to Africa, Australia, Asia, the US, and continental Europe. Instead of flying to England or Scotland right before the British Open, players could stay home and try to make it at local venues. If Faxon did not have the CVS Charity Classic to play, he would be at Canoe Brook. Instead, he'll fly to Scotland and try to snare a spot there.

He could end up on a course he's never played and go up against players he's never faced, but if that's what it takes, that's what he'll do.

The last time Faxon went to Scotland to play his way into the British Open, the venue was also St. Andrews.

It was 2000 and when he failed, he hopped on a plane, flew all day Tuesday, and made it back in time to successfully defend his title at the B.C. Open.

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