Golf

Austrian golfer Wiesberger eyes US Open start

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ATZENBRUGG, Austria (AP)

Bernd Wiesberger aims to become the first Austrian golfer to qualify for the US Open when he starts his title defense at the Lyoness Open on Thursday.

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The 61st-ranked Wiesberger will likely need a top-10 finish at his home European Tour event to move up a spot in the world rankings and earn a berth for next week's major in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

Coming off third place at the Nordea Masters in Sweden last weekend, Wiesberger said he was confident of having another good result but was wary of getting distracted by the perspective.

''I've played a couple of events in the United States before so it's not really like being in uncharted waters,'' Wiesberger said. ''Still, it would be a huge honor being the first Austrian to play at the US Open. But I am not calculating and will just try to play well here.''

Wiesberger has a good track record in Atzenbrugg, finishing fifth in 2011 before winning the event last year.

''I had a good preparation and I always feel well here,'' the Austrian said.

Wiesberger has earned his career-high ranking by making the cut in his last 15 events, winning the Indonesian Masters along the way last month.

It was his third career victory after winning the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea and Lyoness Open in 2012.

Wiesberger has been grouped with Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and Thomas Levet of France on the opening day.

''Bernd has improved so much lately and he has shown with great results what he's capable of,'' said Jimenez, who has recovered from breaking his leg in a skiing accident in December to become the first golfer from continental Europe with 600 European Tour appearances.

The field also includes Thomas Bjoern of Denmark, who finished fourth in Sweden last weekend, and former tennis professional Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, who missed the cut here last year.

Wiesberger was relegated from the European Tour after his first season in 2009. He returned two years later after winning two events and finishing fifth on the Challenge Tour.

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The Austrian started working with his Belgian coach Philippe De Busschere during the 2011 season, and said the partnership has significantly influenced his career.

''We share similar thoughts about playing golf,'' Wiesberger said, adding the De Busschere hardly ever uses more than two sentences to express his ideas. ''We completely understand each other.''

An excellent long hitter, Wiesberger is mainly working on other aspects of his game.

''You can't play perfect golf. There's always room for improvement,'' Wiesberger said. ''I can get better at everything up to 100 meters. And I need to improve my consistency on the putting green.''

Markus Brier, the 2006 champion and only other previous Lyoness Open winner from Austria, was expecting Wiesberger to perform well.

''Defending your title at a home event is extremely difficult, I didn't succeed either,'' said Brier, who lost his tour card last season. ''There is added pressure because of the media and the crowd. I hope Bernd gets into the top 10. That would be good for golf in Austria. He has the quality and the experience to do it.''

Situated in the partly flooded province of Lower Austria, Atzenbrugg has not been too badly affected by the weather. Tournament director Miguel Vidaor said he didn't see any obstacles for the event.

''The course has held up well under the heavy rainfall the last couple of days,'' Vidaor said. ''Forecasts are looking good and we will be able to start as scheduled on Thursday.''

Tagged: Bernd Wiesberger, Miguel Angel Jimenez

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