Rose's chances nipped in the bud

Tim Glover on the trials and tribulations of attempting to qualify for the championship

The chances of Justin Rose becoming the youngest player to appear in an Open since John Ball in 1878 receded yesterday when the schoolboy shot 73 in the first of two rounds at Scotscraig in final qualifying. It may have been a score that most 14-year-olds would have been proud of, but the competition for places in the Open is fierce.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "I thought I played quite well, although I was a bit edgy on the first tee. I learnt that you have to fight and keep going."

At such a tender age, Rose is hardly in full bloom. He had two bogeys in the first three holes, a solitary birdie at the 16th and he was hoping to pick up another at the 18th. His birdie putt rolled four feet past and he missed the return. "My chances of qualifying are not very realistic," he said. "I will need a 64."

The best round of his career was a 65 in April at his home course, North Hants, where he won the Hampshire Hog amateur tournament. At the same venue he shot 67 for joint first place in the Open regional qualifying competition. John Ball, the Open champion in 1888, was 14 when he made his debut 10 years earlier.

Rose, who will be 15 on 30 July, was born in Johannesburg and the family moved to Hook (no place for a golfer) 10 years ago. "At the start of the year I wasn't even able to enter the Open," Rose, who swung his first club at the age of 11 months, said. "My handicap was two and you have to be scratch." A week last Friday he won the English Boys Under-16 Championship.

Mark Foster, almost paternal by Rose's standards, shot 67 at Scotscraig and is attempting to qualify for the first time. Foster, 19, from Worksop, plays for Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup against the United States at Royal Porthcawl in September, after which he intends to turn professional. Before that, however, he defends the English Amateur Championship at Hunstanton where his first- round opponent will be Rose. Yesterday Foster outscored his playing partners, the Ryder Cup player, Joakim Haeggman, and the Australian Mike Harwood.

The scoring at Scotscraig was impressively low and nobody was lower than Richard Boxall. He established a course record of 64, seven under par, and two strokes better than his travelling companion and drinking partner, Derrick Cooper. Boxall was first alternate for the Open at Turnberry last year but did not get in. At Royal Birkdale in 1991, he was two shots off the lead when he collapsed on the ninth tee during the third round and was taken to hospital with a broken left leg.

On the question of casualties, Domingo Hospital is having a torrid time. The Spaniard lost out in a play-off for one of the five exempt places in the Scottish Open at Carnoustie, and yesterday he suffered further misfortune. At the seventh hole at Lundin Links his ball moved as he was about to tap it into the hole from three inches. When he came in with a round of 70, he asked for a ruling about the incident and incurred a one-stroke penalty.

Andrew Oldcorn set the standard at Lundin with a 65 and he should be indebted to the starter. The official reminded players to check their clubs before the start and Oldcorn, who won the Jersey Open this year, discovered he had 15 clubs, one more than the maximum, in his bag. He discarded a one-iron and carded a score of six under par.

The American, Mark Brooks, whose second day 64 was the joint lowest round of last year's Open, had a 65 at Ladybank, a course record. "I love playing here," Brooks said. "I get really disappointed when I go to new courses and see nothing but water." Oliver Thomson, a 22-year-old professional from Leeds, invested pounds 20 in enlisting the services of a local caddie to guide him round Ladybank. It was not money well spent.

"He was a complete disaster," Thomson said ruefully. "It was as though he had never been on a course before. The last time he'd seen Ladybank was in 1978. He kept moving about, upsetting my concentration and never bothered to clean a club or a ball." Thomson, who had a three over par 74, sacked the caddie at the 13th.

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