Something about Ireland seems to bring out the tiger in Japanese seniors. We saw Seiji Ebihara storm to victory in the AIB Seniors Open in May, and now his compatriot Noboru Sugai sports the honor of Senior British Open champion, which he earned at Royal County Down last weekend. Sugai finished three under par at 281, with Canadian John Irwin two shots behind.
Christy O’Connor Jr. occupied the third slot with his 286 (73-70-73-70). He might have been in better position for a title run had he not taken a double-bogey seven on the 18th hole to end Thursday’s round.
Denis O’Sullivan was part of a group in 25th place at 298 (77-72-75-74). Art Pierse, who tied for 52nd place, was the low amateur of the tournament, shooting 305 (80-69-78-78), which earned him the Silver Medal. Also going all the way were Joe McDermott, tied for 54th place at 308 (75-76-82-75), and Gordon Parkhill, alone in 61st position at 319 (80-71-83-85).
A 36-hole score of 151 or better was needed to make the cut, which proved the undoing of Paul Leonard, 153 (78-75), Kenny Stevenson, 153 (77-76), Eddie Polland, 155 (76-79), David Jones, 156 (78-78), Bryan Malone, 158 (82-76), Barry Reddan, 162 (82-80), and Hugh Smyth, 163 (76-87).
Harrington close again
What’s new in Padraig Harrington’s world? Not much. Another week, another close finish. This time, he tied for third place in the TNT Open at Hilversumsche Golf Club in Germany. Winless in 2002, Harrington has top-12 finishes in 10 of the 13 tournaments he has entered, with six top-six placings.
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Of course, with champion Tobias Dier shooting 60 out of the box, Harrington can’t be faulted too severely. He played the course 15 under par for 72 holes, his 265 (66-67-64-68) leaving him two shots behind Dier. Harrington went into the final round in second place, three shots behind Dier, with whom he was paired on Sunday. A bogey on the par-3 15th hole sealed Harrington’s fate.
At least Harrington is in position to play under a microscope on Sunday. Many of the fine wines Ronan Rafferty collects were probably not even grapes on the vine the last time the Northerner was a serious threat on the European tour. But nostalgia hung heavy in the air when Rafferty reported in with 65 after Thursday’s tour of the course. Reality set in during rounds two and three, when scores of 72 and 74 were carded. But the ignominy of occupying the bottom position on the leaderboard was avoided when Rafferty shot 68 on Sunday to finish tied for 59th place at one-under 279.
The cut was established at 140, severing Paul McGinley, 142 (71-71), and David Higgins, 147 (70-77).
Euro Challenge Tour
The Charles Church Challenge Tour Championship found three Irishmen finish in the top 20 at the Bowood Golf & Country Club in England. Gary Murphy was best seated for a championship run on Sunday morning, as he was just one shot off the lead. But he stumbled his way to 75 and a seventh-place tie at 281 (67-73-66-75).
Peter Lawrie’s steady play earned him a share of fourth place at eight-under-par 280 (71-69-70-70). Gr’me McDowell, fresh off a runner-up placing, was well back after 36 holes, then climbed to seventh place, thanks to a third-round 66. But his hopes were short-circuited with a 74 on Sunday. He tied for 17th place at 284 (71-73-66-74). Damien McGrane was close behind in joint 22nd place at 286 (71-69-73-73). Eamonn Brady’s 155 (77-78) was well off the maximum of 144 needed to qualify for the weekend.
John Morgan, just three months into his professional career, finished low at 278 with David Geall, then bested that one in a playoff for the championship.
Signs of life are forthcoming from Keith Nolan. The numbers from the Price Cutter Charity Championship at the Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield, Mo. (34th place tie at 281 (69-69-67-76)) don’t really tell the story. The former Walker Cupper and All-American at East Tennessee State put together probably the best 54 holes of his professional career to find himself in a tie for ninth place after Saturday play was completed. Thoughts of contending for the title were muted, however, as eventual winner Patrick Sheehan was well in front of the field.
True, Sunday’s round took some of the luster off Nolan’s performance, but maybe he will take some much-needed confidence from this effort and get his career back on track. For the record, Nolan was seven under par for 72 holes and earned $2,613. Sheehan won with a total of 269. Whereas Nolan is out of the mire, John Kernohan is still stuck. He missed the cut by 10 strokes with 150 (72-78).