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Disqualification leaves Rock livid

England's Robert Rock, the player who lost a play-off to local amateur Shane Lowry last year, opened the Irish Open with a six-under-par 65 at Killarney -- and then was disqualified for signing for a wrong score.

Rock, seventh in the Open two weeks ago, did not spot that his card had him down for a par on the 14th and birdie at the next instead of the other way around.

Hoping to win the £415,000 first prize for a second successive time -- Lowry was unable to claim the money -- Rock said: "It's my fault.

"I checked it, but didn't see it and it's my job to do that.

"I don't think I've been disqualified for anything before. I'd have preferred it to be after an 80!"

Rock was joint clubhouse leader when he finished, although minutes later compatriot David Howell took over at the top of the leaderboard with a seven-under 64.

"What else can you do?" added Rock. "I've gone through the same process I always do and I've done a lot over eight years, but this time I missed it.

"I didn't have a clue until it was pointed out to me that the scores were different."

With massive understatement he said: "It's disappointing, I must admit."

Rock had been only one under at the turn, but he then birdied the 10th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th for an inward 31.

Scorecard blunders are an occupational hazard in golf.

Argentina's Roberto de Vicenzo missed out on a play-off in the 1968 Masters when he signed for the wrong score on the 17th in his final round.

England's Mark Roe was lying fourth in the 2003 Open with a round to go when it was discovered he and playing partner Jesper Parnevik, who shot 81, had forgotten to exchange cards.

And in the 2000 Benson and Hedges International Open at The Belfry, Pádraig Harrington was five clear with a round to play when it was discovered by chance he had forgotten to sign his first-round scorecard.

Rock's fellow countryman David Lynn was the playing partner who got his scores wrong.

Former Ryder Cup star David Howell's determination not to let his career sink without trace finally paid rich dividends in Co Kerry yesterday.

At 479th in the world -- he was ninth four years ago -- Howell emerged from the wilderness with a seven-under-par 64 in the first round.

"I've never wanted to give up, but it's crossed my mind that if I carry on playing as I did last year I wouldn't have a career," he said.

He has even turned to television commentary and after-dinner speaking, but when asked if the comedy circuit was becoming a possible alternative, Howell replied: "Not yet -- I think my golf's been a bit of a comedy for the past couple of years."



illustrious

Five birdies and then an eagle on the 519-yard 16th lifted Howell into a one-stroke lead over Ireland's Damien McGrane and Aussie Richard Green.

McGrane out-scored his illustrious compatriots Harrington and Graeme McDowell by three and five shots respectively, while Darren Clarke shot 66, Rory McIlroy 67 and twice US Tour winner Justin Rose a desperately disappointing 74 that can only harm his Ryder Cup hopes.

Howell added: "I chipped in and holed three long ones -- more than my fair share, which in fairness you normally do when you shoot 64.

"I finally got round to sorting my personal life out and this year I'm in a happy point in my life.

"Golf is very difficult when you're a pro.

"It's a very stressful thing to do -- that's why I'm losing my hair!"


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