Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scots miss out on Open spots after play-off heartbreak

Scotland's representation in the Open Championship in two weeks stayed at six after three players - Lloyd Saltman, James Byrne and Callum Macaulay - all suffered heartbreak as they lost in play-offs in yesterday's Local Final Qualifying in Fife.
At the end of a dramatic day at Fairmont St Andrews, Ladybank, Kingsbarns and Scotscraig, there was joy for 12 players as they savoured clinching a place in the 150th anniversary of the world's oldest major but, sadly, there was disappointment for a sizeable Scottish contingent.
And no-one will be feeling the pain of missing out on the party on the Old Course more than Saltman, Byrne and Macaulay, who all came so close to securing their tickets, only to lose out in the cruelest of circumstances.
Returning to the course where he'd also qualified in 2005 before going on to win the Silver Medal as leading amateur, Saltman shared the lead after a four-under 66 in the morning at Scotscraig and, after seven holes of his afternoon round, the Archerfield Links player had improved to six-under.
However, he then ran up a double-bogey 6 at the 17th - his eighth - dropped two more shots at the third and seventh before shaving the hole at the ninth - his 18th - with an eagle putt, a 71 leaving him in a play-off with English duo Steven Tiley and Gary Clark as Paul Streeter, a 43-year-old from Lincoln, secured the top spot there on 135 (69, 66).
In the rough off the tee, Tiley failed to hit the green with his second at the first play-off hole, leaving Saltman, the last to hit in there, a real opportunity. He completely mis-hit his approach off a hard-baked lie, though, and came up 60 yards short. From there, the Scot hit his third to about 15 feet but was unable to save his par, leaving the two others to go through after they made 4s, Tiley having holed from further away than Saltman.
"To have come so close to getting back to St Andrews and miss out is a sore one," he said. "I thought I needed to make the eagle putt on the last but I'm pleased that I came here and gave myself a chance at least."
Byrne, the 21-year-old from Banchory who just missed out on a place at St Andrews when he lost in the final of the Amateur Championship to South Korea's Jin Jeong at Muirfield less than a fortnight ago, made the most of benign early morning conditions to card an eight-under 64 at Kingsbarns for a three-stroke lead at the halfway stage.
"It was like target golf in the morning and I could have shot 61 as I missed three putts inside eight feet," conceded the Arizona State student. "I had five eagle putts from close range and missed one from ten feet at the 16th to go to ten-under before bogeying the 17th.
As the wind stiffened around middway, though, it was a totally different course that Byrne stepped back out on to in the afternoon.
Starting at the tenth on this occasion, he was out in three-over before birdies at the third and fourth - his 12th and 13th - put him seven-under for the day.
However, an untimely shank then cost him a triple-bogey 7 at the fifth and the Scot had to dig deep to cover the last four holes in level-par, getting up and down from a bunker at the ninth - his closing hole - for a 76.
That left him three behind the top qualifier there, Irishman Colm Moriarty with rounds of 67 and 70, and the pain felt by that shank was magnified when Bryne missed from three feet for a birdie at the second hole of the play-off that would have taken him through along with Tom Whitehouse. Instead another amateur, Jamie Abbott, progressed with a birdie from ten feet at the next.
After rounds of 68 and 69 at Ladybank, Macaulay found himself in a four-man play-off for one spot with English duo Simon Edwards and Paul Wesselingh and Clodomiro Carranza from Argentina. Edwards went through after the Windermere man holed a five-footer for birdie on the first hole.
At the only venue that didn't require a play-off, Zane Scotland, who, at the age of 16, became the youngest player to qualify for an Open when he earned a place at Carnoustie in 1999, secured one of the spots at Fairmont St Andrews.
He shot 137, one behind English amateur Laurie Canter, with Dane Mark F Hastrup securing the other place there on 138.



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