By John Manley
The number of the day in Europe on Sunday was 63. That was the score recorded by both Darren Clarke and Liam Higgins in their respective tournaments. But 18 holes does not a tournament make, and, as much under par as 63 my be, it was not enough to close the gap and produce a trophy in either case.
Entering the TNT Dutch Open at Hilversumsche (par-71) just outside of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, Clarke sought to put a disastrous July behind him. He had missed the cut in both the Murphy’s Irish Open and the British Open, events in which he figured large. Although he shot 68 and 69 in the opening rounds here, he was still eight strokes behind the leaders, Stephen Leaney and Lee Westwood, at the halfway point. While Clarke was shooting 67 in the third round, Leaney and Westwood shot 70 and 72, respectively, leaving Clarke five strokes from the top.
He came out smoking on Sunday, recording a birdie on the first hole and an eagle-3 at the fourth, en route to a 30 on the front nine. His only bogey of the round came on number 10, when his deft touch on the greens momentarily deserted him, as he three-putted. He put that behind him and finished the back nine in 33 to tie the course record for 18 holes. Leaney’s 67 left him a one-stroke cushion over Clarke, 266-267. Westwood and Nick Price tied for third at 268.
Philip Walton seems to have ironed out the kinks that have plagued him over the past year. After a respectable showing in the British Open, Walton tied for 11th here at 9-under 275 with rounds of 68, 67, 70 and 70. Paul McGinley tied for 30th at 279 (66-71-71-71) and Padraig Harrington tied for 51st at 283 (69-72-67-75). Des Smyth couldn’t keep the momentum going after a fine showing at Royal Birkdale the previous week. He missed the cut by four strokes at 145 (75-70). Raymond Burns, likewise, was forced to find another way to occupy himself over the weekend after rounds of 75 and 76 to finish at 151.
European Seniors Tour
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Higgins didn’t come as close as Clarke in last week’s stop on the seniors circuit, the Credit Suisse Seniors Open at Bag Ragaz near Zurich, Switzerland. He began Sunday’s final round 10 shots behind the leader and eventual champion, Bobby Verwey. Higgins managed eight birdies during the round, including one on each of the last six holes. Combined with rounds of 70 and 72, his aggregate was 205, which was 5-under for the tournament, tying him for 7th place. Verwey won with a score of 200.
Further down the leaderboard were Eddie Polland, tied for 15th at 207 (71-68-68), Paul Leonard, tied for 24th at 209 (69-70-70), Denis O’Sullivan, tied for 30th at 211 (74-69-68), Dr. Arthur Spring (71-72-72) and Joe McDermott (72-68-75), both tied for 44th at 215, and tied for 51st at 218 were Arnold O’Connor (74-70-74) and Tommy Halpin (72-71-75).
Last week’s CVS Charity Classic at the Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Mass., was not stocked with many big names, thus a golden opportunity for first-year pros to move up the moneyboard and secure that tour card for next year. Richard Coughlan and Keith Nolan were unable to capitalize on the situation, however, as both missed the cut, which fell at 1-under 141. Coughlan dug himself a deep hole with a 74 on Thursday. He rallied with a 69 on Friday, but his 143 didn’t cut it. Nolan, likewise, began with a 74, but improved to only 73 on Friday, and travel plans to the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn. were the main concern of both as dusk fell on Friday.
John Kernohan tied for 38th in the Nike Wichita Open at the Willowbend Country Club in Kansas. Kernohan was 10 under par at the completion of play, with a score of 278, which was 13 strokes behind the champion, Emlyn Aubrey. Kernohan’s cards read 71, 68, 69 and 70. His earnings for the tournament were $968.