A simple error and Roe the contender becomes outcast

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Mark Roe produced one of the best rounds of his life on the third day of The Open Championship and then discovered he had been disqualified. The Yorkshireman was paired with the Swede Jesper Parnevik, and both, astonishingly, committed one of the most elementary errors in the game.

When they met on the first tee, they forgot to exchange their scorecards. "It's a mistake I've never made before,'' Roe said. "We shook hands and then just forgot to swap cards. I had Jesper's score on my card, and he wrote my scores on his card.'' The upshot was that both players were disqualified for signing for a wrong score.

Potentially this was one of the most expensive blunders in the history of The Open. Roe had risen dramatically up the leaderboard following a round of 67.

"I will wonder for ever what might have happened in the fourth round,'' Roe said. "The player is responsible for their own scorecard, and I am the only person to blame. It just slipped us both by, it is really unexplainable. The rules of golf are there to protect the game. Whether I'd have won £700,000 or £7,000 is irrelevant. I'm not going to get the chance to play. It is not the worst day of my life. It is a technical error.''

Last night Roe left Royal St George's and drove home to Sheffield to be reunited with his wife and children. "I'm sure I'll shed a tear in private,'' he said. "But I had a great game and I learned a lot about myself. I enjoyed the crowds, enjoyed the thrill of it all, and I will think about that rather than the disqualification. I've got to take something positive from it. I love The Open, and it's been a great week.''

After checking his scorecard in the recorder's hut, Roe was being interviewed on television when Parnevik approached him and said: "I think there's a problem with the card.'' It was only when Roe spoke to officials that he realised an error had been made. "I triple-checked my scores, and nobody had noticed anything. I spent plenty of time in the hut, and I knew my card was perfectly marked.'' The point is that Roe's score appeared under Parnevik's name, and vice versa. Parnevik shot 81.

Being in contention in The Open Championship must have had something to do with the faux pas. Strangely enough, an identical howler was committed by Philip Price and Stuart Appleby. Fortunately for those two, Appleby noticed the mistake before leaving the recorder's hut, and they did not fall foul of the rule about signing for an incorrect score.

David Pepper, one of the leading rules officials of the R&A, said: "It is impossible to waive the rules. On the first tee we give each player their own card, and it is their duty to exchange them.'' According to Pepper, Roe was asked in the hut by one of the scorers: "Is that your signature?'' Roe denied this, and in any case the question that needed to be asked to expose the mistake was: is this your scorecard? Time was when Roe would, in the eyes of the R&A, not treat The Open with the respect which they felt it warranted. Yesterday he appeared so high on the leaderboard he would have needed a parachute. Ultimately, he needed a paracetamol.

Roe, a professional since 1981, was in his 12th Open, and he had missed the cut in six of them. On one occasion he and his fellow practical joker Robert Lee (now a television commentator) practised for an Open by hitting exploding golf balls while wearing paper bags over their heads. The R&A were not amused.

Yesterday Roe preferred a golf cap to a paper bag, and the only thing exploding over the hallowed links were the spectators who opted to follow his exploits. They were not disappointed.

Birdies have been a relatively rare species at Royal St George's over the past few days, so the large galleries negotiating the dunes have taken the decibel count to new levels when somebody managed to produce an eagle.

Tiger Woods conjured up a couple in the third round, but Roe also contributed a tremendous strike. It came at the 13th, a par four of 459 yards, on which he holed his second. At the same hole, Parnevik took five. The Swede, a contender with Roe in the eccentric stakes, had the good grace here to let the Englishman take centre stage, and Roe was loving every minute of it. He had already had a rollercoaster of a tournament, scoring 77 in the first round and comfortably making the cut with a 70 in the second, having qualified for the Championship by shooting 65 in the last round of the Scottish Open.

At five-over for The Championship, he was in the money. In the second round he was six under for the first seven holes, but gave them all back.

Yesterday, in conditions that were nigh on perfect (when Henry Cotton won The Open here in 1934, he was photographed clutching the silver Claret Jug in a huge Crombie overcoat which would have looked rather out of place in a heatwave), Roe began with a bogey five. Had he remembered to swap cards at the first it would have been the only blemish on his card. His 67 was four under for the day, and it would have left him handsomely placed at one over for The Championship. The back nine is considered the toughest, yet Roe breezed home in 32.

When Roe, a naturally gifted sportsman who excelled at diving, went through a divorce eight years ago, he told the world, or more accurately the Press Association, at the Moroccan Open, that he had contemplated suicide and had gone as far as putting a shotgun in his mouth.

At the age of 40, his rehabilitation has been impressively completed.

''This is sport,'' Roe said yesterday. "It's just a game. I'll watch the rest of The Open at home with my wife and kids.''