Golf: Forsbrand in battle to join the Troon army

Andy Farrell reports on the men making a last-ditch bid for the Open
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The Independent Online
Ordinarily, finishing 61st in a tournament might not mean much to Russell Claydon. The generously proportioned Cambridge man earned pounds 2,280 at the World Invitational and at tea-time on Saturday discovered, to his immense relief, that his tee-time of 7.35 yesterday morning at Irvine Bogside had been cancelled.

Claydon's lowly cheque at Loch Lomond was enough to take him pounds 52 past Anders Forsbrand on a mini order of merit which operates between the PGA Championship and the World Invitational. The top-five on the list, not otherwise exempt, gain the last automatic spots available for the Open.

In all, 104 players have been seeded straight into the championship which begins on Thursday, leaving only 52 places available for the majority of the record entry of 2,140 to play for over two days of Final Qualifying. Following the regional qualifying last week, the field had been whittled down to 120 competitors at each of four sites on the Ayrshire coast. Only the top-13 at each venue are guaranteed to tee up with the stars.

Claydon, along with Retief Goosen, Ross McFarlane, Ignacio Garrido and Jamie Spence, were well out it. Forsbrand set off at 9.30am at Western Gailes, returned a two under par 69 and is by no means sure of qualifying. The Australian Stephen Leaney and Jose Coceres, of Argentina, led on 67, but the former US Masters champion, Larry Mize, could be struggling on 72.

Other tour regulars fared no better. Barry Lane shot 70, Mark Mouland 71, D J Russell 72 and Howard Clark 73. "I need to shoot a 66 or a 67 to be in with a shout," Lane, who has not missed an Open for a decade, said.

Pierre Fulke, who spent Saturday playing with Open champion Tom Lehman and '95 US Open champion Steve Jones at Loch Lomond, matched his countryman Forsbrand with a 69. Fulke had played alongside Mize and Christy O'Connor Jnr, who shot a 77, but complained of food poisoning. A corn beef sandwich is under suspicion.

Billy Marchbank, the brother of Brian, became the first Scot to crash out of the Open, something usually reserved for Colin Montgomerie when he misses the cut, as he has done for four of the past five years. Marchbank was involved in a car accident on his way to meeting an 8.05 tee-time at Western Gailes. Although he was unhurt, he had to stay to supervise the towing away of his badly damaged car.

Stuart Cage's hopes went the same way when he was disqualified at Kilmarnock Barassie. The Cannes Open winner signed for a score of 75 instead of 76 when his card showed a four at the 17th and not a five. Though the Yorkshireman was called back to the recorder's hut to correct the error, the Royal & Ancient confirmed that his initial entry had to be accepted.

A 10th place finish at Loch Lomond set up the Australian Peter O'Malley for a new course record of six-under 67 at the remodelled Barassie links. His round included holing an eight-iron from 160 yards for an eagle-two at the ninth, where one of his playing partners, a Jason P O'Malley, had a seven. This second O'Malley, who hails from Tournerbury, a nine-hole course on Hayling Island, had recorded an eight at the previous hole and did not break 90.

O'Malley led with Anthony Wall, who qualified for the European tour this year but has not made a penny. The son of a London cabby, the 22-year- old who has playing rights at Sunningdale, has missed the cut in each of his six events on tour and has had a couple of weeks off suffering from glandular fever.

"I had it since January, but I had a blood test and it was OK," Wall said. "It was great to wake up not feeling tired."

The South African Wayne Westner shared the lead on 66 at Glasgow Gailes, while Scott Drummond and the Swede Daniel Chopra shot 65s at Irvine Bogside. Among those on 67 was Gaurav Ghei, who beat Montgomerie when India were victorious over Scotland in the Dunhill Cup last October.

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