By Jpohn Manley
Tiger Woods has a little more riding on the outcome of this week’s British Open at Muirfield than anyone else in the field. Not since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 has anyone approached the third of golf’s four majors with a chance to continue his march to the sport’s grand slam. So, with preparation of the utmost importance, Woods led a foursome of Mark O’Meara, David Duval and Scott McCarron to the European Club in Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow, on Friday.
Woods reported in with a course-record 67 on the par-72, 7,300-yard links layout. He notched an eagle at the third hole, and birdies at the seventh, 10th and 17th holes.
The same facility was closed to the public for much of Sunday in order that Padraig Harrington could have the run of the place as he finalizes plans in his quest for the claret jug.
The final European Tour tuneup before the Open showed Paul McGinley to be finding his way out the wilderness. McGinley, who has failed to mount a serious challenge in months as he tumbles down the world rankings, tied for 14th place at the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. Only a second-round 73 kept him from the top of the leaderboard. He finished 6 under at 278
(69-73-68-68), which was five strokes behind Eduardo Romero and Fredrik Jacobson, who settled matters to Romero’s satisfaction.
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Darren Clarke tied for 25th place at 280 (70-73-66-71), with Michael Hoey a stroke behind at 281 (68-72-72-69), in 32nd place. Ronan Rafferty missed the cut by one stroke. He shot 72-72 over the first two rounds.
British Open qualifying
Amateur Colm Moriarty put himself in excellent position to advance to the
British Open when he shot 63 in the first of two qualifying rounds at North Berwick. The second 18 bit him, though, as he carded 75 Monday to miss advancing by two strokes. David Higgins shot 142 (72-70) there.
At Gullane No. 1, amateur Padraig Dooley had the low score of three Irishmen
on the course, none of whom qualified. Dooley shot 138 (70-68), four shots
off the qualifying mark. Stephen Browne was in with 141 (70-71), while
Eamonn Brady shot 146 (74-72).
Robert Giles was lowest of the foursome that tried Dunbar. He shot 141
(68-73), when he needed 137. Further behind were Gr’me McDowell, 144
(72-72), John Dignam, 144 (73-71), and Paddy Gribben, 147 (72-75).
Four Irishmen will tee off at Muirfield beginning on Thursday: Darren
Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Des Smyth. Smyth made the
field based on his 13th-place tie last year.
Euro Challenge Tour
Damien McGrane landed in a tie at 15th place at the Volvo Finnish Open at the Espoo Golf Club in Finland. His 8-under-par 280 (71-67-74-68) was seven shots above Thomas Norret’s winning 273. Gary Murphy’s hopes faded with a pair of 75s over the weekend. He tied for 51st place at 290 (72-68-75-75). Ciaran McMonagle, at 144 (71-73), missed the cut by a stroke.
Euro Seniors Tour
A trio of Irish took up the challenge at the Mobile Cup at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire, England. Denis O’Sullivan’s 20th-place finish at 215 (73-72-70) proved best of the three. Eddie Polland was another stroke back at 216 (73-72-71), which placed him in a tie for 25th position. Liam Higgins’s 219 (72-73-74) was good for a piece of 36th place. Bernard Gallacher’s 201 was the low score by four strokes.
Both Keith Nolan, who shot 145 (73-72) for 36 holes, and Richard Coughlan, 147 (73-74), missed the cut at the Dayton Open, played at the Golf Club at Yankee Trace in Centerville, Ohio. A score of 141 or better was needed to qualify for weekend play.