Sport Golf

Sunday 18 February 2018

Irish hanging on as gales blow Open off course

Much attention was focused on Paul Dunne (Getty Images)
Much attention was focused on Paul Dunne (Getty Images)
Paul Dunne


South-westerly gales, ripping across the Old Course from early yesterday, caused significant re-scheduling of the 144th Open Championship at St Andrews. The fourth round will not now be played until tomorrow, in a repeat of the weather-affected 1988 staging, when Seve Ballesteros won at Royal Lytham on a Monday.

Of the five Irish challengers, Paul Dunne (-6), Padraig Harrington (-3), Graeme McDowell (par) and Shane Lowry, who missed the cut on one-over, were kicking their heels yesterday, having completed their second rounds on Friday. But when Darren Clarke was two-over for his remaining three holes when the second round was completed last night, he, too, departed the scene.

Lowry putted poorly on Friday. His real problem, however, was a wretched eight on the 17th on Thursday, when he seemed to be coasting to a round in the sixties.

An attempt to complete the second round at 7.0am yesterday morning, before calling in the players 32 minutes later, met with an angry response from Jordan Spieth. With the benefit of hindsight, R&A chief executive, Peter Dawson, conceded last night: "It would have been better if play hadn't started, but the decision was taken on the evidence at the time."

Though Spieth secured pars during that period, Dustin Johnson, the championship leader, made a mess of chipping and putting the long 14th for a bogey six. He repaired the damage, however, with a two-putt birdie on the last in a round of 69, after play had resumed at 6.0 last evening.

And one of the late finishers nearing 10.0pm on Friday evening, Tom Watson, bade farewell to the Auld Grey Toon. "I've taken a lot of time playing golf at Ballybunion and other links courses prior to the Open Championship," he reflected. "All those memories..."

Much attention also focused on Dunne, whose exploits could hardly have been more appropriate at a venue much loved by the game's greatest amateur, Bobby Jones. And if the 22-year-old from Greystones can maintain his challenge, it may be appropriate to revive the famous comment of Jones's Scottish caddie: "Aye, you're a wonder, sir. A blooming wonder."

The last time such a major upheaval occurred at St Andrews was in 1960, the Centenary Open marking 100 years since the event was launched. That was when Joe Carr had a chance of becoming an amateur winner of the title.

He had carded 72 and 73 going into the final 36 on Friday, a schedule so arranged as to ensure that competing professionals could return to their clubs to take care of their members' needs over the weekend. As it happened, Carr broke the amateur record for the Old Course with a third-round 67, which left him five strokes behind the surprise leader, Kel Nagle.

Then came a marvellous start of 3,3,3 - birdie, birdie, birdie - to the final round, leaving him tied for the lead with 15 holes to play. But, as luck would have it, the round was abandoned because of a rainstorm and, by the Saturday, the momentum had gone. Carr began 4,5,5 and eventually finished eighth behind Nagle.

Finally, as a measure of Tiger Woods' decline, in the last 20 rounds they have played in the same tournaments, Spieth has outscored him by no fewer than 113 strokes.

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