Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

McDowell glory hunt falls short

So Fred Daly remains the only Ulsterman to have lifted the Claret Jug.

Perhaps Rory McIlroy’s chances of emulating him were a little overstated — it was only his second Open after all, and rating him third favourite was, as he himself said, ‘bonkers’.

Turnberry, though, was a glorious but wasted opportunity for Graeme McDowell.

The leader in the early stages of Thursday, this Championship was set up perfectly for him and to fail to mount any real challenge thereafter was highly frustrating.

His two under opening 68 left him right in the thick of the action and the trickier conditions on Friday when the entire field struggled, should have played into the Royal Portrush man’s hands.

The 59-year-old Tom Watson gave an exemplary display of how it should be done with a level par 70 on day two to preserve his lead at five under overall.

McDowell, in slightly calmer conditions than the morning players had faced, could manage only a three over 73 to slip well down the pecking order.

A battling third round 71 left him on two over going into yesterday’s final round when a round one or perhaps two under par would have given him a fighting chance. Instead a shot went at the second and that was the end of that with a final round 73.

Darren Clarke finished with one of the few under par rounds of the final day but as so often been the case for the Ulsterman this past few years, it was too little, too late.

Twin opening rounds of 71 left him in great shape only for him to blow it spectacularly with a third round 78.

Three good rounds out of four just doesn’t cut it when it comes to the Majors which is why the Clarke cupboard remains bare.

But if time is running out for Clarke — although Watson gives hope to us all — McIlroy knows he has at least another 20 years at least to crack the formula.

Talk that his ball-flight is too high to cope with an Open is patently absurd. He can hit it high, low or any which way he wants to.

He did hit too many errant shots and was within seconds of a lost ball on Thursday.

But making the cut by knuckling down to hard work was an important milestone as he admitted in the past he might well have given up. At this stage it’s all valuable experience.