English hopes evaporate at British Open

BY foxsports • July 21, 2012

The week began with hopes of the first English winner of a British Open in England since Tony Jacklin at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1969. Going into the final round, the best hope is the No. 1 player in the world.

That would be Luke Donald. He was 10 shots behind.

Donald felt like he didn't miss a shot over the first hour on Saturday and was 1 under through five holes until he tried to blast out of a deep bunker on No. 6 to get it close enough to save par. The gamble failed, and he wound up with a double bogey. Donald didn't make another birdie until the 17th hole, and by then it was too late. He had to settle for a 71 that left him too far behind Adam Scott.

There's nothing left for him to do on Sunday but ''go out there and enjoy it.''

''I'm probably too far back to have a chance, but as always, I'll give a go out there, give it my all,'' Donald said. ''You never know when you're going to learn something, even though you don't have a chance to win. Try and see how good I control the ball in the wind.''

Donald had his caddie, John McLaren, back on the bag with him in the third round. McLaren left on Friday because his wife, Helen, was due with their first child. She had a girl they named Georgina. But there wasn't a lot of chatter about babies.

''But he was certainly beaming when he walked in the door this morning,'' Donald said.

Donald now has to wait three weeks until the final major of the year, the U.S. PGA Championship, at Kiawah Island on the South Carolina shore. The only positive to take out of the Open is it's the first major this year he will tee off after lunch. He wasn't even around on Sunday at the U.S. Open, where he missed the cut.

''I'm getting closer,'' Donald said. ''My record isn't that great in this championship. But I'll take some confidence from the last few days. Certainly after the disaster at the U.S. Open, this is much improvement. And as I said, I'll walk away from this week knowing that my game is good enough. It just needed to happen at the right time.''


PADRAIG DOES RENO: Padraig Harrington prefers to play the week before a major, and that usually means the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone before the U.S. PGA Championship, which he has done since 2007.

One problem: Harrington isn't eligible for the World Golf Championship because he is not in the top 50 in the world. The Irishman is at No. 59 and was hopeful of a strong week at Royal Lytham to crack the top 50 and get into Firestone. Those hopes took a big hit on Saturday when he never got anything going in a round of 70. He was at 2-over 212. He would need to finish alone in sixth - he's seven shots behind that score - to have any chance.

The solution?

''It's the biggest little city in America. Here I come, Reno-Tahoe,'' Harrington said.

That would be the Reno-Tahoe Open in Nevada, an opposite-field event with only a $3 million purse and the lowest amount of world ranking points on the U.S. PGA Tour. But he wants to play, and it's the only spot available in America, even though it's on the other side of the country from Kiawah Island.

Harrington also is running out of time in his bid to make the Ryder Cup team for Europe. He has played on every team since 1999, and even though he is showing some form, he is not counting on a wild card. And he's not consumed with the Ryder Cup. It's all about the last major.

''That's completely on my mind now,'' he said. ''I'll go out and play tomorrow, try and shoot a good score. If I didn't win this week ... I think I needed to finish top five, anyway, to get enough points to get into Bridgestone. So my mind is very much focused on getting my game in good shape for Kiawah Island.


ERNIE'S CHANCE: Ernie Els finds himself in a familiar position once again, chasing down a leader at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

He gave it a shot but came up short in 1996 and 2001. If he's going to do it this time, he will have to come from six shots behind Adam Scott in Sunday's final round.

''I feel I've got a chance,'' Els said. ''I feel the way I'm playing, if those putts start dropping I can really shoot a low one. So that's what I'm hoping for.''

Els shot a 2-under 68 on Saturday to stay on the fringe of contention, tied for fifth with Zach Johnson. If he is to win the British Open for the second time he must not only beat Scott but leapfrog Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell along the way.

It's a tall order, but Els believes he has yet to get the most out of his golf so far this week at Royal Lytham.

''It's amazing, absolutely amazing,'' he said. ''I felt like I've played really good golf but just can't really get a really low score going.''

Els was eight shots back here in 1996 before rallying with a final round 67 that left him two shots back of winner Tom Lehman. Five years later he was two shots back entering the final round and finished tied for third behind David Duval after a final round 69.

He will go out on Sunday trying to win the Open for the first time since he won in a playoff at Muirfield in 2002.

''For some reason I've got some belief this week. I feel something special can happen,'' Els said. ''I feel I've put in a lot of work the last couple of years, especially the last couple of months. So something good is bound to happen, so hopefully it's tomorrow.''


OPEN CHAMPIONS: Tom Watson and John Daly will be paired early Sunday in the final round, two players with nothing in common except their names on the claret jug.

This won't be the first time Watson and Daly are in the same group.

They were part of a threesome - with Paul Goydos - in the final round at Bay Hill in 1998 when Daly tried to reach the par-5 sixth green - again and again and again. He put six balls in the water and finally two-putted for an 18.

Watson referred to it that day as a tragedy and a comedy. Maybe he'll get more of the same at Lytham on Sunday.


DIVOTS: Attendance for the British Open is slightly up from last year, when it was held on the other side of England at Royal St. George's. The crowd of 37,800 for Saturday was up from 36,500 last year. For the week, attendance is nearly 2,000 more people. ... For the first time this week, no one had a bogey-free round. ... Jason Dufner's caddie was so ill on Saturday morning that he was replaced by the caddie of Sergio Garcia, who missed the cut.

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