McGinley keeps smiling as lead goes down the pan

By James Corrigan in Maynooth
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The Independent Online

Guess where? The local lad misses out on the chance to lead his country's Open - and so cement his chance of becoming the first home golfer to win it in 23 years - because a marshall who was supposed to be looking where his ball went just happened to be in the toilet. Yep. It could only be Ireland.



Guess where? The local lad misses out on the chance to lead his country's Open - and so cement his chance of becoming the first home golfer to win it in 23 years - because a marshall who was supposed to be looking where his ball went just happened to be in the toilet. Yep. It could only be Ireland.

Not that Paul McGinley was that peeved with the bizarre incident that happened here in the second round yesterday, but then one double-bogey never looks that bad when buried at the bottom of a barrowload of birdies. Seven in all adorned McGinley's card of 69, to send the player who will forever be associated with the putt that won the 2002 Ryder Cup to within two of the leader, Welshman Stephen Dodd.

But even this grinning Dubliner would have spent enough time scowling to work out that the seven at the par-five had cost him the pole and could end up costing a cheque. "Tell me, how can an Irishman lose a ball in Ireland?" he asked.

Well, this is how. McGinley was on the 15th when he sprayed his second into the rough on the right of the green. No matter, he was only five yards from the fairway and although the rough was wet and wiry, the 38-year-old's frame is small but stocky and he would have fancied his thick wrists to slice through that cabbage for par or perhaps better.

Except, the volunteer who was supposed to be ball-spotting in this rather remote area of Carton House had been whisked off his sentry by an urgent call of nature.

To be fair, the poor dolt in question would have been 70 yards away anyway, stationed behind the green, and had only been told of his new duty an hour or so before, after the marshall who had been there previously was moved elsewhere due to a lack of activity the day before. So McGinley searched, and searched, helped by almost 100 spectators but, without a pinpoint indication on where his errant fairway wood finished, alas was searching in vain.

"The only other time I can remember losing another ball is in last year's British Open," he said.

That McGinley could laugh at the perversity of it all is down to a newly-forged faith in the virtues of patience. "Peace of mind," he said, with almost Zen-like assurance.

Nick Dougherty would have been crossing his legs in harmony, the 22-year-old once again extolling the mysterious attributes of his "mind-coach", the hypnotherapist Jamil Qureshi. "Jamil can save me at least two or three shots and in Singapore I think he won me the tournament," said the Liverpudlian after his two-birdie, two-bogey 72 left him at four-under, one behind Dodd, who has taken to appearing regularly on the leaderboard recently.

"Some think it's a load of claptrap, my dad being one of them," Dougherty added. "In fact, I never told Dad I was using him - until I won. I'm probably more open with Jamil than anyone. It might not be very manly but I spew it all out and he picks the bones out of it."

And then came David Howell, in the form of his life but far from happy after blowing a chance to end a six-year winless sequence when bogeying the par-three last at the Forest of Arden last Sunday with the British Masters a simple five-iron away.

"Most people are afraid to tell you you're a Wally after something like that, so you've got to work it out for yourself," said the 29-year-old who is lying upsides Dougherty and another Welshman, Bradley Dredge, after a second successive 70. "In truth I have never been as pissed off after a tournament. But I went down the pub, had a few pints, and after a good night's sleep, it was straight back on the horse.

"I'm convinced I'll be winning soon. Yeah, the pressure got to me, my hands sweating, my heart-rate racing, just like as it does for everyone else. Maybe I need a two-shot lead to win."

Or maybe he needs a spoon-bender, just like Dougherty. "Nah, I had one afternoon with a sports psychologist and found it wasn't for me," he said. "But if we sit here this time next year and I haven't won again, then yes, we'll have a think about it."

Qureshi was doubtless swinging his pocket watch as he said it.

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