NO-HEADLINE

the Australian who quit after shooting a nightmare 92
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The Independent Online
Ian Baker-Finch probably felt he had made the right decision when he played Royal Troon's first yesterday in a regulation four. Seventeen horrible Open Championship holes later he was proved sadly wrong.

The 1991 champion, a player once so good he has set Open records of 29 shots for nine holes at St Andrews and Royal Birkdale, was buried under the wreckage of a 21-over-par first round so embarrassing he withdrew from the tournament immediately after completing it.

"The hardest thing is being an Open champion and wanting to do well," he said. "I don't want to give in but I don't think I should play tomorrow. The decision has been made.''

Royal Troon was not at its most benign yesterday but Baker-Finch gave the impression he could not have found a fairway on an airless day with the aid of an electronic guidance system. He went out in 44, eight over par, which proved to be his halcyon period because the back nine was even worse.

Three successive bogeys had the 36-year-old Australian reduced to laughing at himself after he had to hack the ball out from thick gorse on the 12th, the Fox. His inclination must have been to cry when that was followed by a double at the 15th and a treble at the par-five 16th, where he drove out of bounds.

He dragged himself off the course with a score of 92 - the worst Open round since Guy McQuitty returned a 95 at Turnberry 11 years ago - his brave decision to ignore his wretched form rendered utterly foolhardy. "You don't have an option but to complete the round," he said. "You can' say to yourself `Oh well, I'll walk in now' or something like that. You have to keep on going and just try your hardest. That's all I could do."

Last year he played in the Open at Royal Lytham then went into semi- retirement before he was persuaded by older memories and older friends to give it a go this week.

"I don't regret the decision," he said. "I played nicely in the practice rounds. It wasn't too much trouble, I thought I should go and do it.''

Which was fine until the sixth where he found a bunker, fluffed a chip and got one of six double bogeys. "When you start bogeying or worse," he said, "you begin to wonder what everyone is thinking. You start noticing the cameramen, all that stuff. It's hard to focus on the job when you're shooting horrendous like that.

"It gradually got worse. Earlier in the round I wasn't really playing that poorly, maybe a bad chip, one or two bad drives. Everything just went wrong. That can happen.''

Unfortunately for Baker-Finch it is happening far too often.

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