Blooming Rose banishes the doubts
Englishman's brilliant six-under 67 tightens grip on Ryder Cup spot but Montgomerie loosens his.
Sunday 31 August 2008
Perhaps Nick Faldo had the right idea all along, maybe there was absolutely no need for him to turn up at the Johnnie Walker Championship until the last stages of the final round. Indeed, he may well arrive here today and say: "Hey, what's all the fuss been about? What's changed?" Ostensibly, nothing has. But a few players have been born and a few have likely walked into the sunset. It might have been nice for the captain of Europe to have witnessed it, that's all.
But no, he will catch a private jet this lunchtime, after attending a couple of company days at Wentworth, and embark on a trip to Scotland that some claim will rival for brevity Elvis Presley's flying visit. At least when Faldo enters the building he will find a qualifying picture made all the more clear by two days of frantic action. This championship was always going to be a case of sliding doors and hello and goodbye.
The Ryder Cup should certainly bid a hearty welcome to Justin Rose. He started the third round determined to cast from his mind that nagging doubt which told him it would take a minor miracle for him to drop out of the automatic standings.
It worked as, after a six-under-par 67, it requires a major miracle for Rose to miss out on making his debut in Kentucky next month. Indeed, at eight-under, just three behind the leader, France's Gregory Havret, Rose can now think of winning the tournament. What his playing partner would have given for that outlook.
Colin Montgomerie had a bad day at the office and probably an even more torrid evening at his nearby Perthshire home.
Beginning at two-under, just five behind the overnight leader Havret, the 45-year-old went backwards as most others went forwards and, after a 76, ended 12 off the pace, way down in 54th place. Never mind miracles or anything of the like, Monty now needs an even rarer happening – Faldo to show a little sympathy to give his wild-card chances worthy consideration.
He will not be holding his breath at 6.05pm, but he will surely be holding the hope that Faldo does not opt for Ian Poulter instead. That truly would be too much for the old boy. In this of all weeks.
Following yesterday's round he slumped off saying to reporters: "Not today, thank you. I think you've had plenty out of me already this week." We certainly have; Poulter would conclude rather too much. And so too may his legacy. The pair's transatlantic spat has taken away the focus from what should genuinely have been a lament for the passing of the Monty era. It will not be the same without him, but it should still be familiar with Darren Clarke on board.
Faldo has always done it his way, but if that involves overlooking the 40-year-old Clarke, who won so emphatically in Holland last week and is swinging it as well as ever, then that would plainly be the wrong way. Yesterday's level-par 73 was not impressive in itself, but again, just like Friday's 73, that was more down to his woes on these awful greens than any sudden downturn in form.
"In terms of the Ryder Cup," he said, "I've played as well I can play this week. So we'll see what happens." Clarke sounded neither resigned nor expectant. He knows Faldo of old and is aware of the futility of second-guessing one of golf's great enigmas.
One of Clarke, Paul Casey and Poulter will doubtless reflect in the bitter hours following Faldo's announcement the dangers of leaving it to one man's whim.
The relief of doing it all by oneself was written all over the faces of Rose and Soren Hansen (on nine-under) as they figured just what it would take to knock them out.
It would start with Nick Dougherty making up six shots and 15 places by winning this afternoon and then young Oliver Wilson doing something daft.
Saying all that, Dougherty was suitably fired up after a 69 and vowing: "I will play the most aggressive round of my life tomorrow. I have nothing to lose."
No, he doesn't, but Wilson now figures he can only make on the deal, too. If there has been one player to emerge here these last few days it has been the 27-year-old from Mansfield. Six over after five holes of his second round and heading straight for the gate, he overcame a lifetime of being unable to pull himself out of the cack with an inspired run. Being nine-under for 31 holes is commendable in any situation but, under this pressure, it is amazing.
"I felt like I've proved something to myself," said Wilson. As fulfiling as that must be, it is probably a damn sight easier than proving it to Faldo. "I'm sure Nick's made his decision already," said David Howell last night. All that effort, all that dreaming, all that heartache, all that joy... and all for what?
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