By John Manley
Last weekend’s professional tournament action found plenty of Irishmen contending for medalist honors, but nobody came away with a trophy. Darren Clarke stood on the brink of his second victory of the year, beginning the final round of the Deutsche Bank-SAP open tied for the lead with Paul Broadhurst. Clarke began the tourney at Gut Kaden in Hamburg, Germany, with a 5-under-par 67 and only went lower in the next two rounds, shooting 66 and 65.
Broadhurst took himself out of contention early in the final 18 holes, flailing away en route to a 76. Clarke, meanwhile, was hitting on all eight cylinders, carding birdies on the first two holes. Trouble, however, was to come from both within and without. Clarke, who had posted only one bogey over the first three rounds, took a 6 on the par-5 sixth hole and a 5 on the par-4 eighth. Meanwhile, Lee Westwood, who had started the day one shot off the lead after dazzling the gallery with a 61 in the third round, went on a birdie tear on the front nine. He bagged four on the winged critters to open a three-shot lead heading into the back nine.
Clarke had regained his composure, staying even on the 10th-13th holes, before running off three straight birdies, beginning with the 14th. Westwood, playing in the group ahead of Clarke, couldn’t be rattled, shaving a stroke off par at 13 and 15. He stumbled with a bogey at the par-3 16th, allowing Clarke to close in, but a birdie putt from 20 feet on number 18 put Clarke in a bind. The hero of Portrush did drain his own putt on 18, from 35 feet, no less, to close matters out with a bit of flair.
For the record, Clarke finished the final round with a score of 68, putting him at 22-under 266 for 72 holes, and leaving him one shot behind Westwood. Masters champion Mark O’Meara came in at 269 for third place. Philip Walton, who had lost his Ryder Cup form of the not-so-distant past, struck an encouraging note. Walton tied for fourth place at 17-under 271 (69-70-65-67).
Others who went the distance were Paul McGinley, who tied for 22nd at 12-under 276 (65-74-66-71); Eamonn Darcy, tied for 39th at 279 (72-69-67-71); Padraig Harrington, tied for 60th at 282 (69-72-72-69); and Raymond Burns, tied for 76th at 286 (70-70-73-73). A 36-hole score of 141 or better was required to make the cut. Unable to accomplish this were Ronan Rafferty at 144 (70-74), and Des Smyth at 145 (73-72).
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European Seniors Tour
David Jones of Bangor, Co. Down, had the low score at the end of regulation play (54 holes) at the Philips PFA Golf Classic at the Marriott Meon Valley Country Club in Shedfield, England, on Sunday. Note the word “regulation,” though. That means more golf to come. That was because England’s Neil Coles was also at 13-under-par 203. So, the gentlemen proceeded to the tee of the 18th hole, the beginning of a sudden death playoff. Coles nailed a 20-foot birdie putt on the green to take the title from Jones, who brought a one-stroke lead into the final round. The 51-year-old Jones shot rounds of 70, 65 and 68.
Florida-based Joe McDermott was short of magic, after having won the AIB Open two weeks ago. McDermott, a County Clare native, was two shots off the lead at the beginning of Sunday’s play, having recorded scores of 67 and 70. The 70 he shot on Sunday left him four back of Coles and Jones at 9-under 207.
Liam Higgins and Paul Leonard were among a quintet tied for 9th place at 212. Higgins’s scorecards read 70, 69 and 73, while the numbers for Leonard were 70, 70 and 72. Further down the list were Eddie Polland, 20th at 215 (72-70-73); Gordon Parkhill, tied for 21st at 216 (75-71-70); Arnold O’Connor, tied for 37th at 220 (69-75-76); Hugh Jackson, 52nd at 225 (75-74-76); and Michael Murphy, 58th at 239 (82-81-76).
John Kernohan came out blazing in the first round of the Knoxville Open at the Three Ridges Golf Club in Knoxville, Tenn. His 65, including seven birdies and no bogeys, placed him in a tie for second place, two strokes off the lead. Then the fire died. Kernohan limped in with a 75 the second time around to make the cut by two strokes. Finishing rounds of 69 and 73 produced a final score of 6-under 282, good for a 42nd-place tie and a check for $791.
Neither Keith Nolan nor Richard Coughlan were able to crack the small field (105 players) at Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Classic in Ohio on the PGA Tour, so the pair took to the Nike Trail, which proved to be no lark. After thrashing his way to an opening 74, Nolan needed and got a 67 to make the cut. The weekend provided little consolation, however. Nolan shot 73 and 76 to close with a 2-over 290, leaving him at 62nd place, which produced earnings of $360.
Coughlan left with only a bad memory. His play was nothing to be ashamed of, though. Rounds of 70 and 72, however, resulted in his just missing the cut by a stroke. P.J. Cowan withdrew from the tournament after an opening-round 75. Coughlan and Nolan won’t have to hack it out on the Nike tour over the next two weeks. Space is available in this week’s Kemper Open and next week’s Buick Classic at the Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y., where both will be playing.
European Challenge Tour
David Higgins started the final round of the Challenge de France at Sable Solesmes in Le Mans, France, just one shot behind the leader, Scott Watson. Higgins, who has had an injury to overcome this year, shot rounds of 69, 67 and 67 through Saturday. He laid waste to any title hopes with a 3-over 75 on Sunday, however. That added up to a final score of 10-under 278, six behind Watson and Warren Bennett. Bennett won the playoff.
If John McHenry’s going to have along summer, at least it doesn’t look as though it’s going to be a hot one, situated in Canada as he is. The former European Tour player missed the cut in the opening round of the Payless Open at the Cordova Bay Golf Course in Victoria, B.C. McHenry didn’t quite get the ball rolling, shooting 75 in the first round. He improved to 72 the next time around the course, but his 147 was well off the 144 needed to play the weekend.
Philadelphia PGA Section
Peter Walsh, the head pro at the Toms River Country Club, won the Skee Riegel Invitational at the Cape May National Golf Club in New Jersey. Walsh, formerly of Dunmurry, Co. Antrim, tied with Russell Davis and Mike Moses for low pro with a 3-under 68. Those three, the two low senior pros and low amateur advanced to a shoot-out, which was decided by a putt-off after four holes eliminated all but Walsh and Patrick Tuttle. Walsh, who was formerly an assistant at Cape May, bested Tuttle in the putt-off and copped the title He left burn marks over the back nine (on which he began play) by shooting 31. Walsh earned $816 for the day’s work