Late finish in Scotland causes cut conundrum

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The Independent Online

'How to miss the cut and qualify for the Open,' sounds like the latest bad idea for a golf book, almost in the realm of the farcically-named 'Play golf like Tiger Woods' which recently appeared on the bookstands. But it may yet prove a popular read after the ridiculous nature of the new system of qualifying for the Open was revealed in Scotland and Lancashire yesterday.

The decision to stage the first-ever Sunday finish of the Scottish Open meant the golfers who failed to make the cut, and did not have an Open exemption, still had the traditional recourse of going to the final qualifying rounds being held at four courses in the Lytham area yesterday and today. Those who only just made the cut had 10 minutes on Friday to decide whether to withdraw and head south for the qualifiers, or stay and try to get one of the 15 spots on offer in Scotland.

Pulling out of a tournament when a cheque – however small – has been guaranteed is not in the professional golfer's missive. Most elected to take their chances on the Loch, with the back-markers giving up any hope of being at Lytham.

Take the cases of two of that ever-swelling rank known as the journeyman professionals – Gary Evans and Mark Mouland. Evans limped out of the Scottish after a disastrous second-round and his decision was made – qualifying it had to be. Mouland, however, had a second-round 67 and at five under was sitting pretty for one the qualification spots on offer in Scotland. A 78 and a 77 later and Mouland was on his way back to his home in Kenilworth rather than Lancashire.

Meanwhile, playing in the first qualifying round at Fairhaven links yesterday, Evans was in fine shape to secure a Lytham place. "I'm disappointed to be down here and did not want to be part of this," he said after his 68. Mouland, however, would have loved to have been a part of it, but it seemed as if he was being punished for making the cut.

Another who must have felt victimised was Jean van de Velde, who will never be allowed to forget "that" treble-bogey seven at the 18th that lost the Open at Carnoustie in 1999.

As a former champion the Frenchman would have qualified for an Open exemption until he was 65. One nightmare hole and two years later, Van de Velde finds himself in a battle with brow-beaten professionals and dreamy-eyed amateurs at Southport and Ainsdale for his Open spot.

Yesterday his 70 left him needing to leapfrog a group on 69 to get into the top eight that will qualify from each course. "Qualifying for the Open is very important to me," he said afterwards in his typically understated manner.

One of those trying to stop Van de Velde at Southport today will be the amateur who defeated Tiger Woods in the Walker Cup at Royal Porthcawl in 1995, Gary Wolstenholme. He is in the group lying one off the 68 fired by four players, including New Zealand's Greg Turner.

At St Anne's Old Links, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, Sam Torrance, with a 68, still gave himself the chance to qualify and do some useful scouting for September's duel at The Belfry.