Thursday 18 January 2018

Singh crowned king of Castle after Scottish Open rivals fall by wayside

Alasdair Reid

The last hole at Castle Stuart offers golfers many choices, but the only option Marc Warren seemed to be considering as he stood on the 18th tee yesterday was to throw himself into the Moray Firth and bring his misery to an end.

Little more than an hour earlier, the Scotsman had been sitting on a three-shot lead as he headed into the final stretch of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. Around the same time, Jeev Milkha Singh was sitting in the players' lounge, tucking into tea and cake, expecting a raft of players to overtake the clubhouse lead he had set with a faultless round of 67. Astonishingly, none of them did, and Singh, five shots behind Francesco Molinari after three rounds, was still up there at the finish.

Nerveless

Singh still had to beat the Italian in a play-off over the 18th hole, but his nerveless bearing was in stark contrast to Molinari's all-too-obvious edginess. Despite himself, Molinari managed to find the green of the 607-yard par five, but his first putt, from around 25 feet, was a shocking effort, pulling up so far short of the cup that he left himself a good eight feet for his second. Singh, however, saved him the embarrassment of having to take it on, the 41-year-old Indian holing out from 15 feet to take the £416,660 winner's cheque.

To rub salt in Warren's wounded pride, Singh also grabbed the one remaining European slot in this week's Open at Lytham as the best top-five finisher not already qualified for the year's third Major. Warren had assumed that Singh had a place in the field, and he seemed almost as disappointed about missing that prize as he did about his back-nine collapse.

Warren's woes began on the 15th, when he pushed his drive off to the right, sent his second shot into the crowd, chipped on and three-putted for a double-bogey. At the 16th, he was again right off the tee, this time finding such a hopeless lie that he had to take a drop on his way to carding a five at the par four. He needed a birdie at the 18th to get into the play-off, but came up one short.

"I definitely wouldn't say it was a mental loss because I've won before," said Warren, whose victories at the 2006 Scandinavian Masters and 2007 Johnnie Walker Championship both came after play-offs. "I know what it takes to win. It was just unfortunate what happened. There are more important things in life than a golf tournament. But it's disappointing. I might need a bit of help to get to sleep tonight."

Phil Mickelson might have been looking for a sleeping draught as well after a day that served as a warning that you should be careful what you wish for. Mickelson had been saying that he wanted tougher conditions, but when the wind finally got up, it blew him back down the field after his 74.

European Tour chief George O'Grady described Castle Stuart as the front-runner to host the tournament again, and confirmed that the Tour will endeavour to keep the pre-Open event on a links course for the foreseeable future.

Of the Irish contenders, Shane Lowry's putter went a little cold during yesterday's one-under-par 71 but he still picked up €50,790, his best cheque of the season, in a tie for 11th place on 13-under.

Padraig Harrington flew last night from Inverness airport to Blackpool and this week's Open buoyed by his performance on the greens at Castle Stuart. Dublin's three-time Major champion also posted a closing 71 to share 16th place on 12-under with, among others, world No 1 Luke Donald, banking €38,388 in the process.

Castleknock's Peter Lawrie tumbled back into equal 24th place on 11-under (worth €31,394) with a disappointing final-round 74. Like Lowry, Lawrie's hopes of a top-five finish were frustrated on the greens where he took 34 putts.

Elsewhere, Colm Moriarty had his first top-20 finish in six events on the Challenge Tour this season, banking €1,172 in a share of 19th on three-under-par at the Credit Suisse Challenge in Lucerne. France's Gary Stal beat compatriot Alexandre Kaleka in a play-off. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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