Rough justice as wayward Rose finds final road closed to Open

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The Independent Online

An opening round of 79 was no good to Justin Rose, either in the prestigious event that is the Scottish Open, or the tournament within a tournament. Rose's goal from this weekend is to earn a place in next week's Open Championship. To do so he has to finish above all the other players in the field who, like him, have not already qualified for the event.

Yet the young Englishman, whose name has been linked with the Open ever since he finished fourth as a 17-year-old amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1998, could be starting an enforced holiday as early as this evening. Nice for most people, but the leading golfers in the world prefer to be employed in the third week of July.

Rose was 14 strokes off the trio of leaders on 65, and while Phillip Price and Eduardo Romero are sure to tee up at Royal Troon, Jose Manuel Lara is among those seeking the last available spot for those not in Local Final Qualifying over the weekend.

Rose's predicament was made all the more galling by the news that not all those who are already exempt will be at Troon. A day after Tom Weiskopf, one of the five Open champions from Troon, bemoaned the lack of a "spirit of adventure" in some of his countrymen, Fred Funk withdrew from the Open.

Funk's only reason, it seemed, was a remark about last year's venue, Royal St George's. "I shouldn't say I hated the course," he said, "but I hated the course." Funk was sixth in the US Open and is in the running for a place in the United States' Ryder Cup team. Scott Hoch, whose unfavourable views on the Open and links golf are well known, has also withdrawn, as has Kirk Triplett.

Some good results in the next month would put both Hoch and Triplett in Ryder Cup contention. Tom Watson's commitment to the Open is not in doubt and this will be only the second time he has missed the championship since winning it on his debut in 1975. He has a shoulder injury.

Rose has been close to qualifying for the Open but dropped out of the top 50 in the world before the cut-off point and, despite a 65 in the opening round of the International Qualifier at Sunningdale last week, he missed out by one stroke.

His golf has been hot and cold of late, like the British summer. He led after two rounds of the Masters, but missed the cut at the US Open. He was fourth at the Memorial and scored another 65 in the final round of last week's European Open.

But in glorious sunshine by the loch, Rose's game caught a chill again. He chipped in for an eagle at the 13th, his fourth hole of the round, but at both the next two holes his tee shots sailed well right of the fairway. He took double bogeys at each, and bogeyed the 16th and the 18th, hooking his drive almost into Rossdhu Bay. A third double bogey came at the fifth.

"I played terribly," he said. "I hit it all over the place." But he was not thinking about the Open. "The furthest thing from my mind. But unless I can do three 64s I'll be on holiday next week."

Jose Maria Olazabal, another of the big names looking for an Open invitation, scored a 70 but Ian Woosnam had a 73 and Angel Cabrera, 36th in the world, a 74.

Since he scraped through a qualifier at Sunningdale, there has been an extra spring in the step of Colin Montgomerie, although it is not always possible to detect. All was right with the world when he was four under after 13, and even after bogeying two of his last five holes he succeeded in his stated aim of keeping ahead of his playing partners. After a 69, Monty was one up on the defending champion, Ernie Els, and two in front of Lee Westwood. "It was nice to see my name on the leaderboard again, it's been a while," he said. "I'm back in competitive mode."

What with Monty's marriage break-up and Thomas Bjorn's inner demons, it has been confessional time. A week after walking off the course in despair for his game after six holes in Ireland, Bjorn had a 68. "I was nervous at the start," he said, "but I kept a positive attitude and today is a relief. Maybe I got a little bit more out of the round than I deserved but that's what I need at the moment."

Phil Mickelson, who did not have a practice round, opened with a 72 but that was four better than his first round last year. The Masters champion has never won on the European Tour. "I'd like to make that breakthrough next week," he said, "but I'll take this week."