Saturday, July 31, 2010

Changed conditions at Gullane for 36-hole final

Jordan Findlay (left) and Michael Stewart before the start of today's 36-hole final at Gullane No 1 (image by Cal Carson Golf Agency.

Michael Stewart is new champion - wins by 3 and 2.

Troon Welbeck's Michael Stewart, the 20-year-old No 3 seed and bidding to become the first Ayrshire man since Hugh McKibbin in 1994 to win the national title, was four up on Fraserburgh's unseeded Jordan Findlay, 22, at the end of the first 18 holes.of the 36-hole climax to the Allied Surveyors Scottish men's amateur golf championship today over the Gullane No 1 course, East Lothian.
It was a totally different day - bright and breezy instead of Friday's dead calm but overcast conditions.
A strong northwesterly wind had arrived overnight and looked like staying for the day, making the likelihood of a repeat of yesterday afternoon's "Birdie Festival" - one eagle and 25 birdies over the two semi-finals -  very remote.
But Jordan Findlay had other ideas. He carried on where he left off in the one-hole semi-finalwin over top seed James Byrne. Jordan, with a minimum of fuss and lining-up the putt, rammed in a five-yarder for a winning birdie 3 at the first.
Stewart, with the longer tee shot, had misjudged the strength required for his approach and overshot the green and was still several feet away from the hole after his chip.
Stewart was not long in arrears. Findlay bogeyed the second to be pulled back to all square.
After a half in par 5s at the third, Findlay regained the lead with a par 3 at the short fourth.
The fifth was halved in par 5s before Stewart levelled it again, courtesy of a three-putt bogey from 12 feet by Findlay at the sixth. The wind was obviously making life far more difficult for the contestants. Findlay had already marked up two bogeys within six holes - he had only two bogeys throughout the 18 holes he required to take James Byrne's measure.
Tbe seventh hole raised Findlay's early total of bogeys to three, Stewart winning the hole with a par 4 to go one up for the first time. The Fraserburgh man drove into a bunker and had one of those one-foot-in, one-foot-out kind of lie.
The eighth and ninth holes were halved in pars, leaving Stewart with a one-hole lead. The Troon youngster holed from 10ft at the ninth having miss the green left with his tee shot.
Stewart covered the first nine holes in an approxmiate 36 (one over par), Findlay 37 (two over).
In contrast to the semi-finals, there had been only one birdie so far - Findlay's at the first hole.
Findlay fell two down, possibly for the first time in the week-long championship, when he bogeyed the 10th , his third bogey in the past five holes, at the 10th. Stewart now two up.
Stewart doubled the birdie count with a 3 at the 11th which gave him a three-hole lead ... a long way to go still but Findlay needed to stop the slide.
Stewart also birdied the long 12th but Findlay was able to match it for a half.
The short 13th was halved in 3s and the 14th in pars 4s. Findlay had putts for birdies at both holes but couldn't take the chances.
In contrast, Stewart got his third birdie in five holes at the long 15th to go four holes up. Stewart was on the front edge in two while Findlay was bunkered greenside.
After a half in 3 at the 16th, where he could not hole a 10ft birdie putt, Findlay notched his first birdie since the opening hole. He hit a great approach shot at the downhill 17th, the ball hitting the stick and coming to rest inches away. That cut the Fraserburgh man's deficit to three but Stewart restored his four-hole advantage with a great birdie 3 at the last.
Stewart outdrove his opponent by a considerable margin down the 18th but his ball ended up behind thistle in the rough. It was a hit-and-hope second shot but it succeeded, leaving him with 20ft past the hole.
Findlay missed his birdie putt from roughly the same distance before Stewart rammed his in for a 3 to go into lunch four up.  It was a potentially "killer" blow for Findlay's hopes even with another possible 18 holes to come in the afternoon.
Stewart was round in an approximate three-under-par 68, having come home in four-under 32.
Findlay had an inward half of 35 for a one-over 72.
Neither player risked having a go for the green from the tee at the 19th Both played conservatively for a half in 4, Stewart missing the green but getting up and down.
Findlay needed to start making inroads on Stewart's lead - and he did it with a birdie 3 at the 20th to get back to three down. The Buchan boy played a majestic low five iron into the wind to within 10ft of the hle - and down the putt.
Stewart had made so few mistakes all day that it came as a surprise when he lost a ball off his second shot at the long 21st and eventually conceded it to Findlay who had won two holes in a row for the first time in the Final. Stewart back to two up after 21.
The sun and the blue skies had long since disappeared to be replaced by menacing dark clouds and it started to rain quite heavily as they played the 22nd, a short hole which was halved in 3s.
The par-4 23rd, 24th and 25th were halved in par figures. Findlay needed to win back another hole or two quickly to have the momentum for the inward half but it was Stewart who missed a 10ft birdie chance at the 24th.
The 25th became the fifth hole in a row to be halved in par. Then the 26th made it six halves on the trot.
Giving Stewart a double bogey 7 at the 21st, where he lost a ball, he was out in an approximate two-over-par 37 in the afternoon to Findlay's one-under 35.
The first hole of the inward half, the 28th, was also halved in par, making seven in a row to be shared.
Findlay missed the green to bogey the 29th - his first bogey in 20 successive holes - and the end of the stalemate put Stewart three up with seven to play.
Stewart had the bit back between his teeth. He hit the green in two at the 480yd par-5 30th hole and sank an 8ft putt for an eagle 3 to go four up with only six to play.
Findlay was not ready to throw in the towel. He hit a great tee shot at the short 31st to 4ft and confidently holed the putt for a 2 to beat Stewart's pitch and putt three. Findlay now three down with five to play.
After a half in 4s at the 32nd, Stewart was in trouble all the way to lost the par-5 33rd to a birdie from Findlay, his second in three holes. Stewart now two up with three to play.
Stewart won the short 34th with a birdie 2 to take the title by 3 and 2. He was one under par for the afternoon round and four under par for the 34 holes in far more testing conditions than they experienced for the semi-finals



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