Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Glaring error ends Higgins hopes

David Higgins will not be playing in The Open later this month

A calamitous oversight by David Higgins ended the Irishman's Open chances after he lost a play-off having discovered one club too many in his bag.

In a scenario similar to Ian Woosnam at the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, the 40-year-old European Tour professional from Waterville realised he was carrying 15 clubs - one more than rules allow.

The 40-year-old, whose has his fair share of bad luck in his career after breaking his left wrist and right elbow in a horseriding accident in 1997, incurred a two-stroke penalty and his two rivals Gareth Wright and George Murray progressed from Local Final Qualifying at North Berwick.

With only 12 Open places across four courses - three at each venue - there was no margin for error for the 288 hopefuls. Higgins' excuse was that he had taken all his clubs back to his car as he did not think he would need them again after posting a five-under 137 only to be called for a play-off.

And while Higgins' mistake might not have been as expensive as Woosnam's mistake 12 years ago - that cost the Welshman second place and lost him £218,334 and a place in the Ryder Cup - but it was as damaging.

Royal North Devon amateur Jimmy Mullen topped the qualifier at North Berwick after back-to-back 68s gave him a six-under total. It was not a good day for former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie either after blew his bid to return to The Open for the first time since 2009.

The 50-year-old Scot carded a second-round 76, having been in contention after an opening 69, to finish three over and four adrift of qualification at Gullane. Amateurs Ben Stow, from Rushmore in Salisbury, and 2012 British Boys champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, from Hallamshire in Sheffield, went through with Sweden's Oscar Floren.

Reigning Scottish amateur champion Grant Forrest booked a maiden Open appearance at The Open as the 20-year-old, from Craigielaw less four miles from this year's venue Muirfield but studying at San Diego University, carded rounds of 67 and 65 to post an eight-under aggregate of 132 at Dunbar.

The other two to secure their Open places at Dunbar were Australian John Wade, who took a holiday to play in qualifying, and India's Shiv Kapur, both one shot behind. Kent professional Steven Tiley ensured a third Open appearance in four years with some impressive scoring at The Musselburgh.

A total of 13 birdies in 36 holes saw him finish nine under, three ahead of Scot Lloyd Saltman, winner of the Silver Medal for leading amateur in the 2005 Open at St Andrews, and High Wycombe 21-year-old Tyrell Hatton, who played his first Open at the Old Course three years ago, who both finished six under.

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