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Open: Angry Andrew Johnston has no regrets after coming out fighting

 

By Phil Casey

An angry Andrew Johnston insists he was right to answer criticism of him on social media ahead of his final round at the Open. The burly, bearded 28-year-old came home on Saturday to discover a national radio station was running a poll asking whether he was an inspiration or a "clown".

Johnston, widely known as 'Beef', objected to the use of the word clown and took to Twitter to defend himself, which led to something of a slanging match.

He returned to Royal ­Birkdale to shoot a round of 71 to drop to one over par for the tournament but insisted the spat had not affected him and he was justified in defending himself.

"I got in after my round yesterday and then (I was) showed a poll saying am I an inspiration or a clown and I kind of went off a little bit. It annoyed me," said crowd favourite Johnston, who received messages of support on Twitter from the likes of six-time Major winner Nick Faldo and Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

"I had a few people message me and say 'Maybe you should listen to the show' - and it was actually worse listening to it.

"I don't mind being criticised, I think it's good taking people's opinions to see what I can do better, and if they had put a poll out saying maybe I spend too much time with the fans or I don't concentrate, would he play better, I'd understand that.

"But when he's taking the p*** out of my face, my teeth and stuff like that, I think it's bang out of order.

"You've got to stand up. Would you take it if someone said your beard looks s*** and you've got f***** up teeth? Exactly. I stand up for myself.

"So I was disappointed the way I hit it for the first few holes because I had a really good feeling on the range but it had nothing to do with it (the row).

"It's out of my head. I just find it bad. What I said, that's it. It's done now. They won't hear another word out of me from it. That's it.

"Everywhere I go the fans have been brilliant and I absolutely love it.

"I never dreamt of being able to walk down 18 on a Sunday at an Open so it means the world to me. It's the best thing."

Another unhappy Englishman was Ian Poulter, who departed Royal Birkdale an unhappy man after his bid for a first Major title faltered over the final two days.

The 41-year-old was just three shots off the lead after the second round but then saw his hopes ended as he shot a one-over-par 71 on Saturday.

That left him trailing by nine strokes and he could not rediscover the early spark as he carded 70 yesterday.

Poulter said: "The two tough days I played well and I found myself in a position where I was right in contention to win. And I took myself out of contention yesterday.

"So there's nothing about this weekend that I've enjoyed from a personal performance (perspective). It's been disappointing. I expect more from myself than I've performed this weekend.

"I performed amazing in the wet and wind and then ­yesterday was terrible. I've had a lousy weekend - nothing to be happy about or proud about."

There was some good news for the home fans as London's Alfie Plant announced plans to turn professional after being formally confirmed as the Open's silver medal winner.

The 25-year-old knew the prize for the leading amateur at Royal Birkdale was his after making the cut on Friday, but he needed to complete all 72 holes to officially secure the gong. He did so in six over par after shooting 73 in his final round.

Plant still has hopes of playing in the Walker Cup in Los Angeles this autumn, but beyond that his ambitions are now in the paid ranks.

He said: "I'll be turning pro in September.

"Hopefully I'm going to be picked for the Walker Cup in September, but then I'll try out for Tour school after that.

"You have to go when you're ready and go when you've got some good results behind you.

"At 25 we've taken our time and I've enjoyed the journey along the way, but I think it's definitely going to be a good journey going forward."

Plant has a number of ­memories to savour from his week at Birkdale, which has been a family affair with his brother Albert working as his caddie and his father and ­mentor Darren following every step.

His father was also the chief organiser of the large fan club of family and friends, mostly wearing #TeamAlfie-branded hats and T-shirts, that cheered him around the course.

He said: "As a son at first you get a bit embarrassed, but it's absolutely taken off this week, and hats off to my dad.

"It's been great. I've been getting so much support and I think it's really made the ­tournament great for me. "

Plant has been staying in a rented house in nearby Formby this week, initially with his father, brother and coach, but that group quickly grew.

He said: "It ended up with 15 of us in there - all the sofas being taken, airbeds getting blown up.

"It's going to be great tonight - but we've all got a drive home. Unless you can give a heads-up to the police, I think we all have to be pretty sensible."

It was pointed out Plant would have pocketed £20,000 had he been playing as a professional, and his thoughts quickly turned to his girlfriend Daisy Meadows.

Asked how he could have spent that money, Plant said: "If you ask my girlfriend, she'd definitely say a ring."

For now, however, he said she would have to make do with "Haribo rings".

Belfast Telegraph

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