LOCH LOMOND’S SPANNER IN THE WORKS

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Phil Mickelson has thrown a spanner in the Carnoustie works. And so too have Ernie Els and Luke Donald.

Phil Mickelson has thrown a spanner in the Carnoustie works. And so too have Ernie Els and Luke Donald.
Only a day or two ago Mickelson was playing with so much confidence and aplomb as he led the Barclays Scottish Open, he was beginning to look like a great bet for this week’s 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie.
His traumatic crash on the last hole at the US Open last year and his injury problems with a troublesome wrist all seemed to be things of the past and one bookie was so confident his victory at Loch Lomond would be a foregone conclusion, he suggested they give the Trophy to the new World No 2 before the start of the final round and be done with it.
I hope the bookie didn’t lose his pants because he was wrong, of course.
The World’s best left-hander started having trouble again with the driver he too often wields unconvincingly, bogeying three of his last six holes including the 18th and then promptly bogeying the 18th again to lose the play-off to World No 320 Gregory Havret.
Shades of his finish as the US Open last year when, with the title in his grasp, he also let it slip away when he tripped up at the last and the question this multiple title winner must now be asking himself is ‘why now?’ and ‘will it happen again at Carnoustie this week’.
Els and Donald, on the other hand, will have upset the punters for a different reason for until Sunday they had been plodding through most of their recent rounds without ever looking like potential major winners.
Come the final round at the Barclays Scottish Open and both came alive again at just the right time with dynamic closing rounds that should boost their egos sky high heading into Thursday’s tee-off at Carnoustie.
Donald crafted a superb 7-under 64 to hoist himself into a tie for fourth place after some rather uninspiring rounds of 70, 69 and 70.
And Els, yet to win in the USA this year, closed with a 65 that should also give him a lift in the vital week ahead.
Yes, Sunday may well have transformed the two tired, seemingly spent forces of late into hot contenders again while simultaneously consigning the luckless Mickelson into a another crisis of confidence.
And all this while the hot favourite Tiger Woods was having a practice romp at Carnoustie that had him singing the praises of a course they were calling ‘Car-nastie’ when the Open was last played there a dozen or so years ago.
There was more pre Open drama over the big pond in the US of A this week where American young gun Jonathan Byrd came from four shots back with a late birdie blitz to blow away a faltering Tim Clarke.
The South African, seeking a first US PGA Tour title and a slot at Carnoustie, had looked unstoppable when he reached the turn with an impeccable 31, but some questionable shot selection going down the final stretch cost him back-to-back bogies at the 16th and 17th and in not much more than 10 minutes he saw his hopes go up in a bitter puff of smoke.
Byrn, who has won twice before on the Tour, was delighted with his win, especially because it will take him into his first “British Open”.
He said “I’ve always wanted to play that kind of golf,” and added that he couldn’t wait to get to Carnoustie so that he could get his teeth into links golf.
Our current poll, which asks readers, “If someone is going to break the European Majors drought at the Open Championship at Carnoustie, who do you think it will be?” has Paul Casey (20%) and Padraig Harrington (19%) in front.
What’s you view? Get your vote in or better still drop us an e-mail.
Cheers

Neville Leck

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