Rocca's poor run costs Open place

Click to follow
The Independent Online

John Daly, the winner of the last Open to be played at St Andrews in 1995, will be exempt from qualifying, like all champions, until he is 65. Those who fall just short of that honour do not have the same luxury and seven Open runners-up were playing in final qualifying.

John Daly, the winner of the last Open to be played at St Andrews in 1995, will be exempt from qualifying, like all champions, until he is 65. Those who fall just short of that honour do not have the same luxury and seven Open runners-up were playing in final qualifying.

While Daly checked into the Old Course Hotel yesterday, Costantino Rocca, the man the American beat in a play-off five years ago, checked in at Edinburgh airport. Only 11 places were on offer at the four venues and after rounds of 71 and 74 for three over Rocca failed to claim one of them at Ladybank.

"It is not my time," Rocca said. "When you miss, you miss - even with what I did here in 1995." The Italian duffed a chip at the last hole on that occasion but then holed a putt through the Valley of Sin to tie Daly and thumped the ground in ecstasy, a celebration the like of which the hallowed turf had never seen before.

Two years later, in the Ryder Cup at Valderrama, Rocca beat Tiger Woods in the singles and won the West of Ireland Classic last year. But the 43-year-old's game has deteriorated this season and he has had only one top-50 finish. "My driver is so bad that it is not in the bag any more," he lamented.

But his former Ryder Cup partner, Sam Torrance, made it safely through at Scotscraig after a five-under 66. The 46-year-old will be playing in his 28th Open after making his debut in 1972. He only missed last year's Open due to a back injury. "It is lovely to keep up my record of playing in the Open," said the Scot.

Torrance was 11th in the Open at St Andrews in 1995 and ninth in 1984. "It's my favourite Open venue. I had a wee chance last time it was here and I always wanted to play in this one."

The Ryder Cup captain has cut back on his schedule this year and has also had the distraction of the Mark James-Nick Faldo row. "You'd need to be in Outer Mongolia to get away from it and even then you probably wouldn't. But it doesn't bother me. My game has not suffered because of my Ryder Cup duties. I don't think I've had to qualify since the early 1970s. It's a nightmare. You can't afford to make any mistakes, it's so tight. But I kept my head and the support I received was wonderful, brilliant."

Simon Dyson lowered Paul Eales' course record at Scotscraig from the day before with a 62, nine-under par. A Walker Cup player last year, Dyson is the current Open champion of both Macau and China. He finished two strokes behind Jamie Spence, who shot a 65, but angrily complained at the number of people in the recorder's hut.

Spence had been involved when Padraig Harrington did not sign his card at the Benson and Hedges International, the Irishman being disqualified two days later when he led by five strokes. Spence later apologised to the officials but said: "I did not want what happened to Padraig to happen to me."

Mark McNulty had to back off a shot at the fourth hole at Leven when he was distracted by a BBC buggy following Justin Rose. "They should show more consideration," McNulty said. The Zimbabwean still comfortably led after rounds of 62 and 65 but Rose, the boy wonder from Birkdale two years ago when he was fourth as an amateur, did not make it.

"It's been a frustrating couple of days with the putter," he said. Luke Donald, the 22-year-old from Beaconsfield, qualified for the second successive year, while Adam Scott, the Australian who was 20 on Sunday, made it at the first attempt. He is coached by Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods's mentor, and will play a practice round today with Darren Clarke.

Zane Scotland, one of the youngest-ever qualifiers a year ago, failed to get through after a 76 at Lundin Links; nor did Gary Nicklaus. He was watched by his father, Jack, but will not stay to see the Bear play in his last Open.

Stephen Ames would have made a play-off at Ladybank, but for being penalised two strokes when he thought he could take a free drop with his ball embedded in the rough, as is the case on the USPGA Tour.

Comments