Mize fails to make Open mark

Click to follow
The Independent Online
However many jackets of a verdant colouring are owned by those who were involved in final qualifying yesterday, Larry Mize possesses the one that they would all want. The American owns a Green Jacket from Augusta National as winner of the US Masters, but his sartorial correctness no longer assures him of a place in the Open.

His exemption for winning the Masters in 1987 has long since run out, but while Jeff Sluman, Fuzzy Zoeller and 1989 Open runner-up Wayne Grady, for various reasons, withdrew from the qualifying, Mize was at Western Gailes battling for a place at Troon on Thursday along with an assortment of touring pros, club professionals and amateur players.

And as it turned out, he did not make it. A round of 70, together with an earlier score of 72, left him short of the required mark. The 38-year- old holed a putt of some 30 feet at the seventh hole, but apart from that one moment of optimism, his efforts were rewarded with no more than 17 pars.

"I missed a couple of short putts at the first two holes for birdies which would have been a nice start, but it wasn't to be," Mize said. "That was pretty much the story of my entire round.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed at not making the British Open. I've had to try and qualify before so it's not a new experience for me, but it doesn't get any easier.''

Mize played last week at Loch Lomond but only discovered the day before the event that exemption spots were no longer available. In past years, the top-five, not otherwise exempt, got in from the tournament prior to the Open. "Had I known it would not have affected my decision to play at Loch Lomond," he said. "It was good preparation and a chance to get acclimatised.''

While the two Americans Scott Hoch, "due to a change in my personal schedule", and Kenny Perry withdrew from the Open yesterday opening up two more spots from the qualifying, taking the total to 54, it does not change the suspicion that those lucky enough to get through such go straight out and buy a lottery ticket. The odds are better.

"I'm a nervous wreck," said Roger Davis, who qualified at Irvine Bogside, where the Indian Gaurav Ghei continued his good form to finish second to American John Kernohan. "It's easier playing in the Open, the Australian added. He has had to qualify four times, the last time he did so successfully being in 1977.

Paul Curry was on the leaderboard at Loch Lomond, but was involved in a play-off at Western Gailes. "It is so difficult playing knowing that one mistake could cost you. You just can't relax until you maybe get two or three ahead of what you think is okay," said Curry, who bogeyed the 15th and 16th, then birdied the last to avoid a nine-way play-off for two places.

Among those involved were Barry Lane and Warren Bladon, the former Amateur champion who is now a professional. Naturally, it also included Neil Turley, from Kidderminster. "I can't believe I've got this far," he said. Turley was four over with five to play in the regional qualifier at Copt Heath. "I thought I was on my way home then," he said. But he birdied three of his remaining holes and got him into a 13-way play-off for three spots. Another birdie at the first extra hole did the trick. A birdie at the last yesterday still kept him alive.

Choi Kyoung-Ju, of Korea, has his name printed on his golf balls, but his name was not on the Open trophy. Choi lost a ball at the eighth hole at Kilmarnock Barassie, but while he was looking found a ball he had lost in the same spot during practice on Saturday. His honesty was not rewarded for he finished two shots out of the qualifying mark.

A defence for those Americans who did not turn up for their tee times on Sunday came from Andrew Magee, who qualified on 137 at Western Gailes. "I was very annoyed by articles criticising some of the Americans," Magee said. "What I'd like to know is how many Europeans come over and try to qualify for our Open, probably zip.''

Qualifying scores, Digest, page 25