Torrance blames crowd for Open flop

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The Independent Online

It takes a lot for Sam Torrance to lose his patience. Usually only a bunch of American Ryder Cup players running over a green does the trick. But the cool of Europe's Ryder Cup captain boiled over again yesterday as he failed to win a spot at this week's Open.

Torrance laboured to a 71 at St Annes Old Links, one of four qualifying courses in the Lytham area, and missed the mark by three. There were few Americans in attendance to bother the man who made a famous outburst against Tom Lehman, Lytham's defending course champion, after he was one of several players to run across the line of Jose Maria Olazabal's putt at the 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline.

It was crowd control, or more specifically the lack of it, that got to Torrance. For the Open committee, which has already courted controversy this year because of the players unable to play in qualifying due to the Sunday finish at the Scottish Open, it was another stinging criticism to fend off. "It was like a circus out there," the Scot said as he tried to perform a great escape after only picking up two shots on the benign opening nine. "People were walking all over the place. Why were there no ropes?" When a mobile phone rang in the scorer's tent, he added: "And there were 3,000 of those out there as well."

If the Championship Committee does insist on having such high-profile players going through qualifying ­ Ian Woosnam only narrowly avoided the ignominy ­ then it will have to provide proper marshalling. Torrance's predecessor, Mark James, whose ball was picked up by a spectator at one point, also missed out after he could only match his first-round 72 at Hillside.

There was better news for hackers everywhere as their hero put his name on the Lytham starter sheet. Jean van de Velde, the man who so gallantly lost the Open with a seven on the 18th two years ago, shot a second-round 68 to see his number come up in golf's version of the lottery at Southport. His total of 138 was enough to earn one of the 34 places on offer.

At Carnoustie, the Frenchman went for a paddle in the burn on the last with the claret jug in his grasp. If he wants to lose it so dramatically this time he will have his work cut out. There is no water at Lytham, but maybe his dream will this time be derailed on the train track that runs along the course. Yesterday, though, there were no final hole jitters. An eight-iron to three feet set up the birdie that confirmed his berth.

The Frenchman, who must know what it takes to win an Open as well as lose one, is quietly keen on his chances. "I am very happy with my game right now. I am hitting it pretty very solid. I am keeping my composure," he said.

The amateur John Kemp also managed to keep his as he added a 69 to a 65 at St Annes to qualify in second, three shots behind the Australian professional Nathan Green. Kemp, a travelling salesman who says he has only practised five times this year, earned himself a fantasy trip to the Open, as did fellow amateurs David Dixon and Matthew Griffiths.

While there are always the amateur fairy tales then there is always the horror story. Matthew Ford, a one-handicapper from Maidstone, believed he needed to hole a 12-foot putt on the 18th at Southport to qualify. He charged it and then missed the one coming back. "I'll be gutted if I miss by one," he said as he waited nervously after his 70. By 5.30 he was gutted and left to reflect on three putts from 12 feet that he will never forget.