By John Manley
Ballybunion hosted the Murphy’s Irish Open last week after a run at Druids Glen in Wicklow and the change proved hospitable to the Scandinavian contingent. Sweden’s Patrik Sjöland, the second-round leader, regained the lead on Sunday and finished at 270 to post a two-stroke victory over countryman Fredrik Jacobson. Third round leader, Rolf Muntz of the Netherlands, staggered home with a five-over-par 76 on Sunday and settled for a share of third place with Paul McGinley.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia shared the first round lead with Sjöland, as both shot seven-under-par 64. Garcia was but two shots behind Muntz as play resumed on Sunday, but he endured the same fate as the Dutchman, struggling his way to a 77, leaving him tied for 10th place.
The home team has struggled in this tournament in recent years, with as few as two Irishmen making the cut in 1998. The weekend representation was far greater this year, with Philip Walton proving the most pleasant surprise.
The former Ryder Cupper strung four solid rounds together, a feat he has been unable to accomplish in quite some time.
McGinley led the Irish brigade at 274 (67-70-66-71). Des Smyth, who was only a shot off the first round lead, stayed in the hunt to tie for sixth place at 276 (65-70-70-71). Walton was one of 10 golfers stacked up in 10th place at 277 (67-67-71-72).
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There was a drop-off until Padraig Harrington’s name appeared at 281 (67-71-72-71), which left him tied for 28th place. Darren Clarke flirted with missing the cut, but qualified for the weekend, finishing tied for 32nd place at 282 (72-70-68-72).
The record will show that Paddy Gribben finished with seven others in 45th place at 284, but his showing was stronger than that. Gribben was tied for 10th place after Saturday, but got lost with a 78 on Sunday. He preceded that with rounds of 69, 67 and 70.
Further down the list were Stephen Hamill, tied for 59th place at 286 (72-65-74-75), Richard Coughlan, tied for 70th place at 289 (71-70-75-73), Mark Murphy, tied for 77th place at 292 (70-70-79-73), and at 294 the duo of Seam Quinlivan (72-70-69-83) and Damian McGrane (73-69-74-78).
Ronan Rafferty appeared well on his way to a fine outing with a 69 in the first round, but withdrew before play commenced on Friday. He has been bedeviled by a hand injury the last three years.
The Ballybunion course record was lowered when both Jacobson and Massimo Scarpa recorded scores of 63 in the second round.
The European Tour remains in Ireland for the Smurfit European Open at The K Club in Dublin this weekend.