MATT Southgate has set his sights on his ‘home’ Open at Carnoustie after playing a superb final round at Royal Birkdale to finish joint-sixth in the 146th Open Championship.

The 28-year-old from Southend shot up the leaderboard as he carded six birdies in a 65 to finish four under par.

Southgate’s impressive performance came just two years after fearing his career could be over after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

After an emotional return to top-level golf and finishing tied 12th on the first anniversary of the surgery during last year’s Open at Troon, Southgate is now looking onwards and upwards.

Next year’s Open at Carnoustie is certainly in his thoughts having been a member at the Angus links since the age of 16.

Southgate, who is a member of Thorpe Hall Golf Club, said: “My dad played in an open matchplay tournament years and years ago and ended up becoming a member, making some long-term friends.

“My present for my 16th birthday for getting to scratch was membership of the Carnoustie club.

“The support I get from there and the opportunities I have had to play there have been unbelievable.

“It’s something I’m very lucky to have and I think it’s going to be an incredible turnout.

“I think the whole of Carnoustie will be rooting for me.

“Carnoustie has got a very special place in my heart and my family’s heart.

“I think it is the best golf course in the world.

“I can’t wait to go and try to make them all proud.”

Southgate’s career is showing signs of taking off after finishing in a tie for second at the Irish Open earlier this month.

Having put his health problems behind him, he feels his latest performance has convinced him he belongs among the elite.

Southgate added: “I played some really special golf here.

“You can’t choose when you play well but to do it on a day like this is an incredible feeling. I’m thrilled to bits.

“I felt like I achieved a huge goal to finish 12th at Troon and we’ve beaten that.

“With all sportsmen, you set a bar and you try to raise it.

“If you keep making the improvements I am making, then sooner or later someone will give you a big old trophy.

“To qualify for Troon was really special and to play well was a bonus but this was a more professional performance, a lot less sentimental.

“I was amazingly lucky with the health stuff.

“I was healthy as quickly as anyone who’s had testicular cancer.

“I didn’t lose any form and it just gave me that little extra passion and desire to mature a bit and get to where we are now.”

Southgate was four over par following the opening two rounds on Merseyside.

But, having qualified for the final two rounds due to being in the top 70 on the leaderboard, Southgate improved and completed round three of the course in 67 strokes to move to just one over par.

However, the Southend golfer’s form got even better on the final day.

Southgate, who booked his place in the major after winning a qualifier in Deal, Kent, just a few weeks earlier, finished five below par to result in him completing the 72 holes four under par.

Consequently, Southgate finished just one shot off Rory McIlroy, who was widely tipped before the event to come out on top, and ahead of Ian Poulter on the leaderboard.

American Jordan Spieth was crowned the Open winner after finishing 12 under par - three shots clear of the second placed Matt Kuchar.