Mark Roe will today miss out on a round with Tiger Woods and a chance to win the 132nd Open Championship. Roe was disqualified yesterday afternoon after a brilliant third round of 67 at Royal St George's. Not even the 40-year-old Sheffield man's roller-coaster career could prepare him for the day's dramatic twist of fate.
Roe, then one over par for 54 holes, left the 18th green blowing kisses to his wife and twin daughters. Last night they were consoling him at home after he was thrown out of the Championship following a mix-up over his scorecard and that of his playing partner, Jesper Parnevik.
The pair had failed to swap their cards on the first tee. Roe's scores were recorded on the Swede's card and vice versa. Though Roe triple-checked his scores before leaving the recording hut, the error was not picked up until he had left the area to be interviewed on television about his brilliant round.
It would have left the three-time Euro-pean Tour winner lying joint third on a leaderboard that was beginning to resemble a list of the world rankings, just as it did 10 years ago here when Greg Norman won in a thrilling Championship. Thomas Bjorn, the only man left under par after a 69, led by one from Davis Love, with Woods in the group at one over that also included Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry.
There was no disputing what Roe had scored, or that his scores were correctly recorded on the wrong card. If the error had been picked up prior to his leaving the hut it could have been corrected, but the rules of golf, and rule 6-6d in particular, offer no leeway in the matter.
Just a few groups after Roe and Parnevik, Stuart Appleby and Phillip Price made the same error, but the Australian picked it up before both men left the scoring area. Price finished at two over par, but that the leading two British players both might have been disqualified is unimaginable.
Roe might have remained in the Championship, although with the 81 that Parnevik actually scored, but for the fact that on the fourth hole he had taken a five to the Swede's birdie-four. He thus had to be disqualified for signing for a score on that hole lower than that he had actually taken. Given the way Parnevik was playing, he breached the rule many times over.
"It's a mistake I have never made before, not swapping the cards on the first tee," said Roe. Amazingly, he was still able to joke about the matter. "I was distracted by Jesper's electric-blue trousers. It is an honest mistake." Roe added: "No one is to blame but myself. I've had a great day. It was thrilling playing so well in front of that crowd. It's the positive things I'm going to take away with me. I might shed a few tears in private, but this is not comparable to bad days for many people. It's just not that important."
Roe has never finished better than 16th in The Open, and after finishing at one over par he has never had a better chance of contending for the claret jug, let alone the £700,000 first prize. David Pepper, the chairman of the Royal and Ancient's championship committee, said: "I am extremely impressed with how Mark has handled the situation, but sadly this is something that happens from time to time.
"We try our utmost to avoid these situations, and we have a more detailed checking system than other tournaments. We spotted someone who had not signed his card on Friday. Golf is played under a set of rules, and it is impossible to waive them in certain situations." It was Parnevik who probably felt worst about the situation. "I feel terrible, especially for Mark," the Swede said. "He could have been leading by the end of the day. Of course, it is our mistake, but I can't believe the R and A did not pick it up. They are so thorough."
Only moments before the error came to light, Roe was ecstatic about his round. It was only one stroke worse than his best- ever round in The Open here 10 years ago.
I never in my wildest dreams expected to do this well in The Open," he said. "My game has improved every day this week." On Friday he had threes at the first six holes but collapsed on the inward nine. Yesterday he holed his second shot at the 13th to come home in 33.
The incident overshadowed what was building up in to a terrific day's golf. The glorious sunshine of earlier in the week had returned to the Kent Riviera, and there had been two earlier 67s from Nick Faldo, a day after his 46th birthday, and Pierre Fulke. But as the course burnt off even more in the afternoon, scoring became more difficult again.
Love, Woods, Singh and Perry, who has won three of his last four starts in the States, are all in the world's top 10, and Garcia is the world No 15. It is a proud leaderboard, on which Bjorn, the 32-year-old Danish Ryder Cup player, stood at the top. "There are some big names there who are expected to win majors," Bjorn said. "The expectation will not be on me."
Bjorn has only just started working with Bob Torrance, the coaching father of Sam. "I felt I played today better than I have done for two years. I have started to build a swing for the future. There is no time to look to the future. This is it." Of all Bjorn's seven European Tour victories, the one that stands out came in Dubai two years ago when he played alongside Woods for all 72 holes. At the 72nd of them, it was the Tiger who cracked and went in the water. "It is nice to know you can go head-to-head with the guy and do well," Bjorn said.
"But this is a major and it's different. I don't know what it is like to win a major, but hopefully my game will be good enough to stand up." Bjorn was penalised two strokes on Thursday when he left a ball in a bunker at the 17th and, before attempting his next recovery, swished at the sand to determine its depth. "I wasn't thinking straight," he admitted. Of course, Woods himself lost a ball on the opening hole on the opening day, so maybe the ledger is even.
Woods made his expected move with two eagles on the front nine, holing from 20 feet at the fourth and then a bunker shot at the seventh. But once more he struggled on the back nine as he recorded a 69. Woods, two back, has won each of his eight majors when he has been leading or sharing the lead with a round to go. He is unconcerned about having to break the trend. "I'm not really thinking about it," he said.
Love, the overnight leader, initially fell back but eagled the 14th, the hole where he was saved from going out of bounds by a thin white post on Friday, and finished with a 72. Garcia, who had a 70, remained in touch with a brilliant par at the 17th. He drove in the rough, took two hacks to get out and then holed his pitch and run from down the fairway. Was the Spaniard excited? Just a little.
Another huge crowd of 40,000 turned out yesterday and will return today. Some of the locals may even be cheering for another at one over par, the American Ben Curtis, a man of Kent, Ohio.Reuse content