DAVID HIGGINS has shouldered full responsibility for the error which destroyed his chances of playing in the British Open at Muirfield.
The Waterville native also described the sickening moment during Local Final Qualifying in North Berwick when he realised he had teed it up in the play-off with 15 clubs in his bag.
Higgins played 36 holes on Tuesday in five-under, then faced a three-man shoot-out to determine which two would play at Muirfield next Thursday week.
When he finished his second round in teeming rain, long before the final groups went out, Higgins didn't think he had done enough to qualify.
So he dried off his clubs and placed them in his travel bag, along with a hybrid which had been lying in the car boot.
Drenched through, he then took a shower and, as he ate in the clubhouse, Higgins was delighted to see his name rising up the leaderboard.
"I decided to go the range to warm up again and hit a few balls," he explained in his column on GolfCentralDaily.com.
"It was still raining really hard so I kept the rain-cover on my bag. My caddie for the day, Monty, a local man that knows north Berwick like the back of his hand, had done a great job and was up for the play-off.
"I hit a good tee shot, and good second to about 15 feet. I was hunkered down reading my putt when the thought suddenly came into my head, 'f**k, did I take that other rescue out of the bag?'
"I stood up and felt a bit sick in my stomach as I walked over to the bag to check. And there she was looking up at me! 'B****x' ...
"It was a horrible thing to happen but I have no one to blame only myself. I guess the excitement/adrenalin rush of getting another opportunity to play in the greatest golf event in the world clouded my judgment and I made a mistake."
Higgins immediately pointed out his error to his fellow competitors and the two-stroke penalty he incurred for carrying more than the regulation 14 clubs on the hole led to his elimination.
This slip left Higgins (40) with one remaining chance of making it to Muirfield – he must win next week's Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, his next European Tour outing.
Sadly for him, any alternates required for this year's British Open will be drawn from the highest players not already qualified in next Monday's official world rankings.
Higgins, who endured his eighth missed cut in 14 Tour events this year at last week's Irish Open, didn't make it into this week's €3m French Open.
Graeme McDowell, already a two-time winner this year, leads a powerful nine-man Irish raiding party on the formidable 'Albatros' course at Le Golf National, venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
One of four Irish Major winners who didn't make it beyond 36 holes at Carton, McDowell remained upbeat about his chances.
"I probably went into the Irish Open a little under-golfed. I missed a few cuts the last five or six weeks, haven't played a huge amount and lacked a little competitive sharpness," he said.
"No panic button here. All I need is some playing time. I'm really keen and hungry to try and compete this weekend on a course I've always enjoyed."
Gareth Shaw (27) expects raw adrenalin to carry him through his seventh tournament in seven weeks. The Challenge Tour regular made it into the star-studded field in France by finishing tied fifth at Carton, where he earned €61,920 – by far the biggest cheque of his career.
"I don't feel tired," said Shaw, who represents Galgorm Castle. "The guys on Tour say the French Open is almost like a Major, a massive event, so I've got to keep going, keep riding the wave."
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