Warren's lament as Singh storms home

 

Marc Warren looked totally stunned last night after squandering a three-stroke lead which saw him lose not only his home Scottish Open but a place in the Open Championship.

Both prizes went instead to India's Jeev Milkha Singh, who, on a dream day for him at Castle Stuart near Inverness, came from five shots back and joint-16th place for the fourth victory of his European Tour career.

The 40-year-old world No 192 beat the Italian Francesco Molinari, ranked 164 spots above him, with a 12-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a play-off, as Warren tried to come to terms with what had just happened. "I might need a little help to get to sleep tonight," admitted the 31-year-old.

Asked if devastated was the right word to describe how he felt, he managed a smile – it might have been different had he been asked to address the crowd as compatriot Andy Murray had done at Wimbledon – and replied: "Not quite yet; I'm sure it will.

"It's going to be disappointing watching The Open [an event the World Cup winner has failed to qualify for 10 times]. I had it in my hands."

After playing the first 14 holes in a brilliant five-under-par, it all started to go horribly wrong on the 423-yard 15th. He faced a 15-foot par putt after finding rough off the tee, but three-putted it for a double bogey six.

His next drive found gorse and, after a penalty drop led to a bogey five, he chipped too strongly on the short 17th and let yet another shot go. Suddenly he needed to birdie the par five last to be in the play-off, but into the wind he needed three to find the green and missed from 25 feet.

Alex Noren, of Sweden, was equally distraught minutes earlier as he had taken a bogey six there to finish one behind Singh, who had set the target of 17 under par with a bogey-free 67.

Molinari, who started with a course record 62 and led after the second and third rounds as well, required a closing birdie to win and so emulate his brother, Edoardo, a winner two years ago. But he left himself having to hole from nine feet to keep his hopes alive. He made that, but he could not match Singh's four when they played the hole again.

Singh was assured of a spot at The Open going into sudden death because Molinari was already exempt for Royal Lytham. It will be only his second appearance in the event. He missed the cut at Carnoustie five years ago. "I just love links golf," Singh said, although he had a different opinion when he first experienced it in 1988.

That was for the qualifying rounds of the British amateur championship at Royal Porthcawl and also Pyle and Kenfig. He shot 87 and 84. "I thought, 'My God, this is tough'. I wasn't used to wearing raingear," he said.

He birdied four of the first six holes, added another on the 363-yard 10th and parred in. It looked as if three-putting the 337-yard 16th after driving the green and leaving a 14-foot attempt on the last short of the hole would cost him. But then came Warren's dramatic collapse.

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