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Champion Haas welcomes new Open qualifying plan in Maryland

(Reuters) - Defending champion Bill Haas has welcomed the changes that will see four players at this week's Quicken Loans National event in Bethesda, Maryland qualify for next month's British Open at Royal Liverpool.

The leading quartet, who are not already exempt, from the top 12 at the Congressional Country Club will earn a spot at Hoylake, the venue of golf's oldest major from July 17-20.

"I am excited to see that guys will have the chance to qualify for The Open," said Haas who has already booked his ticket for the third major of the season.

"It has been a fantastic experience for me to play in The Open and it really tests your game to play seaside courses in varying wind and weather conditions," the American added in a news release.

"The atmosphere at The Open is very special and I have received tremendous support from the galleries. I have a top 20 finish under my belt and each year I am becoming more accustomed to the links game."

Among those looking to qualify are U.S. Open runner-up Erik Compton, Ben Crane, who won the recent St Jude Classic, and twice major winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina.

This week's PGA Tour event also features the comeback of 14-times major winner Tiger Woods following back surgery.

(Reporting by Josh Reich, editing by Tony Jimenez)