SOUTH AFRICAN golfer Tim Clarke was tucking into a pie and chips when he suddenly realised he was involved in a sudden death play off for the Australian Open Championship.
Clark hadn’t given himself a chance when he finished at 9 under par for the tournament and was rueing lost opportunities when he saw his playoff rival Mathew Goggin warming up on the practice green.
Much like Goggin, Clark had given away most of his spare balls, his cap and gloves.
Overnight leader David Smail had been cruising along three strokes clear until two late double bogeys derailed his day.
Clark and Goggin scrambled their equipment and themselves back together to face off on the 18th hole.
“I didn’t even consider that there would be a playoff until 30 minutes after I’d finished,” Clark said later.
“I spoke to my wife and said ‘I think I’ve thrown away another tournament’.”
“I packed up the locker and spoke to my caddy and said see you in America in a few months.”
Clark won the play off and the title with a nerveless up and down from a deep greenside bunker while Goggin just needed to two putt to make it square. The big crowd at the 18th couldn’t believe it when Goggin’s his final straightforward one metre putt lipped out. He was quick to walk over and congratulate a bemused Clark.
Later they were both feeling empathy for New Zealander Smail.
“I feel for David. He had the tournament, he was playing well and had such a horror finish that’s it brutal for him,” Goggin said, refusing to dwell on his own missed opportunity.
Clark said: “”I am obviously very happy but it’s tough to show happiness when you know there’s two guys out there that feel pretty bad.”
Smail’s trouble started with a wayward tee shot at the par-four 15th, and when he again found the trees at 16 forcing him to chip out into the fairway his chances of victory quickly faded.
Clark blistered around the course in regulation play bagging seven birdies in his opening 13 holes but his campaign appeared over when he dropped three shots in consecutive holes starting with a double bogey from the greenside bunker at the 13th. But the classy 32-year-old steadied, posting two closing birdies.
Goggin, who finished runner-up in last week’s Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA Championship to Geoff Ogilvy, went almost unnoticed for much of the final round but his closing three-under 69 was enough to force extra holes.
“If it rains you’ll be see through,” a fellow competitor yelled out to Allenby. “At least there will be something to see,” Allenby responded.
Robert Allenby started and finished with birdies but in between he missed a host of birdie opportunity putts and finished the day on his overnight total of 8 under. He too would have been kicking himself knowing that 9 under would have kept him alive.
Resplendent in all white, Allenby started the day seemingly full of confidence.
“If it rains you’ll be see through,” a fellow competitor yelled out to him on the practice putting green just before he hit off.
“At least there will be something to see,” Allenby responded. And there almost was. Superb drives and approach shots let down in the end by his putting.
Following him for 18 holes it was easier to understand why he rates so highly for greens in regulation on the US PGA Tour but has not recently translated that into wins.
Western Australian Stephen Dartnall, who led at the completion of the first and second rounds, also finished a single shot outside a playoff after a solid even-par 72 alongside Smail, who carded a 75.
Pre-tournament favourite Geoff Ogilvy saved his best for last having teed off well before the leaders on Sunday carding his first round in the 60s for the week – a four-under 68 – to finish at minus seven overall.
Victorian Chris Gaunt fired an even-par 72 to share sixth spot with Ogilvy, veteran Steven Conran who closed with a two-under 70, and Andre Stolz who matched Smail’s 75 playing in the final group.
Reliable left hander Richard Green finished all alone a further stroke back at six-under after firing an impressive 68 in the trying conditions.
First-round leader Ewan Porter signed for a 75 to finish among a group of five players at minus five.
Also among those at five-under was Victorian Tim Wood whose roller-coaster round included an eagle on the par-four first along with five birdies, six bogeys and a double bogey.
Sportsbet Australian Masters champion Rod Pampling shot a closing 72 to finish at four-under in a share of 16th with American Paul Goydos
John Senden, who claimed the Stonehaven Cup in 2006, shot a 71 to finish at three-under for the tournament with Gareth Paddison (72) and Andrew Bonhomme (75).
New Zealand’s Danny Lee, the sole surviving amateur in the field, closed with a 75 to sit in a share of 24th with Steven Bowditch who followed a third-round 66 with a closing 78.
New Zealander Mark Brown is the 2008 Order of Merit Champion.
Round 3 Report
ROBERT Allenby is four shots off the pace but still in a position to strike heading into the final round of the Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club.
Sydney followed up the unplayable rain of Friday afternoon with hot and blustery wind conditions that saw New Zealander David Smail holding a one shot lead overnight.
Thirty eight year old Smail, a multiple winner on the Japan Golf Tour and member of the Australasian Tour since 1993, shot a two under round of 70 to move to 11 under for the event.
A big mover today was Australian Andre Stolz who finished the day one shot behind Smail in second place.
Stolz lept to second spot after an equal best round of the day, a six under 66.
The central coast based golfer was on course-record pace through fifteen holes having taken the lead on the back of eight birdies before blemishes at the 15th and 16th saw him settle for outright second heading into day four.
Sydney’s Ewan Porter survived the ever-increasing winds to sign for a level-par 72 and sits in a share of third place alongside second-round leader Stephen Dartnall who battled to a three-over 75 to also trail by three shots.
Steven Bowditch was the other big mover on the day carding a superb 66 that was only soured by three late bogeys.
Bowditch is joined at minus seven by Robert Allenby, whose 71 included an eagle at the par-five 13th, Rohan Blizard, who carded a 70, and Victorian Chris Gaunt whose bogey on the last completed a third-round 75.
Mathew Goggin, who also struggled to a three-over 75, is in a four-way tie for ninth alongside Andrew Bonhomme (69), Jason Norris (73) and 2008 Cellarbrations NSW PGA Champion Tim Wood who signed for a 66.
Sportsbet Australian Masters champion Rod Pampling has the job ahead of him at minus four in a share of 17th with South African Tim Clark and boom Kiwi amateur Danny Lee who both fired 69’s on Saturday.
After several players were forced to finish their second round this morning due to yesterday’s rain abandoned second round, the cut line fell at level par leaving 63 players to contest the final two rounds.
2007 runner-up Won Joon Lee was among 19 golfers who missed the weekend action by a single stroke while defending champion Craig Parry’s defence ended prematurely following consecutive 73’s.
2001 champion Stuart Appleby, veteran Peter Senior and US PGA Tour regular Nathan Green also missed the cut by two shots while Northern Irishman Darren Clarke at plus five and American John Daly at plus six were also left without work on the weekend.
The final days play begins Sunday at 8:25am with the leading group teeing off at 1:10pm.
Round 2 Report
Play has been officially suspended on day two of the Australian Open at Royal Sydney after heavy rain rendered the Rose Bay course unplayable. Western Australian Stephen Dartnall holds a two-shot lead over joint overnight leader Mathew Goggin who shot a two-under round of 70. Round-two is now scheduled to resume at 6.45am with round-three to commence at 11.45am.
with players to hit off in threesomes from both the 1st and 10th tees.
Western Australian Stephen Dartnall holds a two-shot lead over joint overnight leader Mathew Goggin who shot a two-under round of 70.
Playing in the first group of the day, Dartnall made the most of wet but calm conditions on his way to a four-under 68 to sit alone at the top at minus 11.
Ewan Porter, who also held a share of the lead after round one, sits one behind Goggin in third spot after signing for a 71 which included bogeys on two of his final three holes.
Rod Pampling is well placed at minus six after a solid second-round 71 alongside New South Welshman Matt Jones who scorched around the tricky layout in five-under par.
Playing in the second group of the afternoon, Robert Allenby made light work of the trying conditions to move to five under overall and minus four on the day through nine holes before play was abandoned.
Two-time champion Peter Lonard sits alongside Allenby after carding a two-under 70 while Cameron Percy, who equaled Jones’ low round of the day signing for a 67, is also one of five players at minus five.
New Zealand duo Mark Brown and David Smail are among a cluster of players at four under the card – both men were one over for the day when bad weather stopped play.
Michael Sim also mastered the conditions landing an eagle and a birdie in his first eight holes and is one of seven players at minus three alongside lefty Richard Green, who is also minus three on the day through eight.
Pre-tournament favourite Geoff Ogilvy had made an early move turning in 34 to sit at two-under overall along with American veteran Paul Goydos.
South African Tim Clark appears likely to return for the weekend action after carding a one-over 73 to be in a tie for 36th at minus one for the tournament with boom amateur Danny Lee, who dropped three shots in his final seven holes, to drop down the leaderboard.
Jarrod Lyle (71) and Marc Leishman (72) are among several players facing a nervous wait at one-over the card in a share of 54th.
Former champion Stuart Appleby did his best to save his round with two birdies in his last three holes but is currently on the outside looking in at plus two for the tournament in a share of 71st place.
Defending champion Craig Parry (73), veteran Peter Senior (74) and Nathan Green (73) are a further stroke back while American drawcard John Daly is one under through nine at plus five for the tournament.
Round 1 Report
Sydney’s Ewan Porter, Tasmanian Mathew Goggin and Monday qualifier Stephen Dartnall are in a three way tie for the lead after the opening day of the Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club.
The Aussie trio all carded a course-record equaling seven-under 65’s in benign conditions equaling the low round set by 2006 Champion John Senden.
And all three had a different story to tell. Goggin came into the event having finished runner up at last week’s Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA Championship, whilst Porter returned to the course after withdrawing from last week’s event due to illness. Dartnall, from Western Australia, on the other hand had to survive Monday Qualifying at New Brighton, shooting a 62 (10 under) in the process to get a start.
Fresh from his runner-up finish Goggin hit the ground running with six birdies on the front nine to set up his round, while Dartnall managed six birdies and an eagle on the day.
Porter birdied his final two holes to be the last man in at minus seven on a low scoring day.
Kiwi duo Mark Brown and David Smail, who led for much of the day after firing early five-under 67’s, are joined by Australian Masters winner Rod Pampling two shots off the pace.
Queensland’s Troy Kennedy sits at minus four after signing for a 68 alongside boom Kiwi amateur Danny Lee.
Senden, who landed a spectacular ace on the par-three 13th to storm into the lead after teeing off at the 10th in just the second group of the day, is one of six players at minus three.
Former US PGA Tour winner Andre Stolz is among those at three-under while former champion Peter Lonard offset a costly double bogey at 14 with two birdies at 16 and 18 to finish with the same score.
South African Tim Clark remains within striking distance at minus two alongside a host of players including Wayne Perske, Chris Gaunt and Brendan Jones.
Robert Allenby recovered from a shaky start to his round to finish with a 71.
Pre-tournament favourite Geoff Ogilvy rescued his day with four late birdies on the way to an even-par start, while Northern Irishman Darren Clarke also showed tremendous powers of recovery on his way to an opening 72 after racking up a disastrous triple bogey on his second hole of the day – the par-four 11th.
Defending champion Craig Parry struggled to a one-over 73 to sit on the bubble in a share of 70th with Stuart Appleby, Marcus Fraser and Peter O’Malley – just to name a few.
John Daly’s roller-coaster ride in Australia continued with the big-hitting American carding a disappointing six-over 78 that included three double bogeys, three bogeys and three birdies.
Australian Open Preview
Holding your breath waiting for Tiger Woods to show up at the Australian Open can’t be recommended but there will be a quality field when the tournament gets under way at Royal Sydney on Thursday.
Adam Scott is highly likely to be back from injury, Geoff Ogilvy and Rod Pampling will be fresh from their recent home victories, and with all the talk about the possibility of Tiger being lured downunder next year, everyone seems to have forgotten that the US is providing a drawcard this year in big John Daly.
Daly hasn’t made the cut in his last two Australian appearances but with a few solid weeks of tournament golf behind him, no after dark lurid headlines, and with the Royal Sydney course said to suit his game, this could be the one.
Add to that Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, South African Tim Clark, American Paul Goydos and of course there is a crowd favourite in defending champion Craig Parry.
Parry shot a final round 68 in Coolum and if he’s coming into some real form, who knows?
Before the Masters, there were suggestions Robert Allenby could again take out the three Australian titles and with the pressure now somewhat off he could well be in final day contention.
Stuart Appleby is also waiting in the wings along with a host of others we haven’t mentioned who have a chance of a good showing, players like John Senden, Nathan Green, Mathew Goggin and – a standout performance at Coolum – 49 year old Peter Senior.
James Nitties is also rushing back to compete in Sydney after qualifying for the US PGA Tour next year. Nitties finished in a tie for second place at the qualifying tournament in La Quinta, California.