Walton proves he’s as competitive as ever

PHILIP Walton may be 46 and an absentee from golf’s big time for the best part of a decade but an indication of his competitiveness was evident in his reaction to yesterday’s round of 77.

It may leave him with an uphill battle of making the halfway cut but the man who ended runner-up to Padraig Harrington in the Irish PGA Championship last week showed why he is here (he led the local qualifier at nearby West Lancs) by firing a series of excellent shots and duly finishing ahead of a number of luminaries including Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Paul Casey and John Daly.

Even then, though, he wasn’t very happy with his ball striking.

“I wanted a good start but instead I hit it straight right and out of bounds on the very first tee,” Walton lamented. “I kind of hung in there until the last two holes but the bottom line is that I didn’t play well although I think in the conditions they should have moved a few of the tees a bit up.

“But the greens are pure, they’re beautiful, and I putted well. And it’s just as well, too.

“I had just one birdie, at the ninth where I hit a drive and nine iron to 12 feet. There were a few unusual situations. For instance, on the sixth I had 186 yards to the flag and a five wood finished short. I usually hit that club 220. And it didn’t help that the wind had changed direction from yesterday.

“I fell down on the job with the driver. I missed too many fairways.”

Damien McGrane wasn’t too keen on talking after returning a nine over par 79. He accepted that he was one of those who got the worst of the draw and claimed that “some of the holes into the wind were a bit silly. You have to play the course as best you can, but it’s very difficult out there and that score is disappointing for my first major.

“A double bogey at the 16th hurt me badly. I didn’t reach the fairway with my tee shot, none of us did. I hit a good drive but it was 20 yards short. We all were. On 17 I hit my second into a greenside bunker, splashed out to five feet and sank it for my only birdie.”

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