Archer aim fails on the brink of immortality

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The Independent Online

When your surname is Archer you might hope that something deep within your ancestry would stir itself when you are called on to take aim at immortality. Alas, the six-footer that would have earned an everlasting place in the record books as the first 59 on the European Tour agonisingly popped off the wire.

Of course, a 60 can never be deemed a "failure", although Phillip Archer's expression yesterday was more King Harold than William the Conqueror. If ever the mythical number was to be achieved it was on this Roman Road course yesterday.

The sun shone without burning, the winds had gone on their holidays, at least for the morning, and this layout is short enough to warrant a par of 69. This was it. Bullseye time. "I'm more disappointed at not shooting a 59 than I am happy at shooting a 60," said the journeyman from Warrington on becoming the 13th player in the Tour's 34-year history to come within one. "This feels bitter-sweet."

To console himself, Archer - who has yet to win in a 15-year career characterised by downs rather than ups - will doubtless look at the one-stroke lead he holds over Sweden's Robert Karlsson and then perhaps think back to the bogey on the fourth as being just as culpable as the missed birdie on the last.

But in scenes reminiscent of those pioneering snooker 147s, as players, officials and caddies lined the final green, the magnitude of that 18th will be the abiding memory for Archer. A perfect drive into the middle of the fairway, "a good hard wedge" to within a body's length and his previous 10 birdies seemed just about to be capped with the most famous of all.

"I read the putt as being on the left edge and firm but maybe I hit it a little too firm," he said.

And so a groan filled the Usk Valley as it hit the lip and spun away. Mark Roe, who had been on the adjacent tee waiting to start his round, left his driver on the floor and jumped through some grandstand scaffolding to witness the moment and Colin Montgomerie was just as selfless, crying, " He's got it! Ooohh."

A few minutes earlier the Scot, who has resembled Mrs Doubtfire more than ever in his recent slump of seven missed cuts in the last 10 outings, had been celebrating his own 63.

"That's what I needed to keep me sane," he said. Monty the voice of sanity on a day when the game seemed more maddening than ever? Fancy that.

Unlucky 13: Rounds of 60 on Tour

12 under

J Spence (European Masters, Crans-sur-Sierre) 1992

B Langer (German Masters) 1997

D Clarke (European Open, K-Club) 1999

F Jacobsen (German Masters) 2003

E Els (Heineken Classic, Royal Melbourne) 2004

11 under

B Dassu (Swiss Open, Crans-sur-Sierre) 1971

10 under

P Curry (Scottish Open, Gleneagles) 1992

T Dier (TNT Open, Hilversumsche GC) 2002

9 under

I Woosnam (Monte Carlo Open, Mont Agel) 1990

J Rystrom (Monte Carlo Open, Mont Agel) 1992

D Clarke (Monte Carlo Open, Mont Agel) 1992

P Archer (Wales Open, Celtic Manor) 2006

8 under

D Llewellyn (Biarritz Open, Biarritz) 1998