Wakefield still 'sick' over Open woe

Simon Wakefield returned from a three-week break today still smarting from the way the best week of his golfing life ended on such a sour note.

Simon Wakefield returned from a three-week break today still smarting from the way the best week of his golfing life ended on such a sour note.

With nine holes to play in The Open at Royal Birkdale the 34-year-old from Stoke was one off the lead and in with a great chance of making his first European Tour victory the biggest one imaginable.

Defending champion Padraig Harrington, of course, was the one who rose to the occasion magnificently, but while the Dubliner will long remember the eagle three on the 17th that sealed it Wakefield took away rather different memories of the same hole.

“I’ve been waking up feeling sick about it,” he said, painfully recalling the triple bogey eight which meant he tumbled to 19th place.

“I was dumbstruck. I still can’t believe nobody found my ball. You don’t lose a ball at The Open, but then the next one hit somebody and went out of bounds.

“It was just so frustrating and it was horrific driving home that night, but I’ve had so many lovely letters and cards and there are lots of positives I can take from the week too.

“Even Robbie Williams (also from Stoke) tried to get in touch with me. He rang my old number, though, and when I was told he’d called I rang a number in Los Angeles and he wasn’t in.

“It’s great to know that somebody as famous as him was paying attention to what I was doing.”

Wakefield, now at the SAS Masters in Sweden, added: “If I went back to the 10th tee I would definitely be more prepared.

“It was unfamiliar territory for me to be in that position in a major. I didn’t know whether to attack or defend and I was probably too aggressive.”

While the golf tour moved on to America for the Bridgestone world championship and US PGA Wakefield, yet to play in a major in the States, went on holiday.

He resumes his career 71st on the Order of Merit and 220th in the world – not the star attraction he hoped he might be after Birkdale, but with the confidence boost that comes from getting into contention on the grandest stage there is.

Finn Mikko Ilonen is this week’s defending champion, but German Martin Kaymer would have been in that position if he had birdied rather than double-bogeyed the final hole last year.

Now Kaymer’s aim is to get back into position to qualify for a Ryder Cup debut.

Knocked out of a top 10 spot by Sergio Garcia’s second place finish in the US PGA, Kaymer hopes to take advantage of the absence of Justin Rose, Oliver Wilson and Soren Hansen – the players currently lying eighth, ninth and 10th in the standings.

A top three finish would take Kaymer past all of them, but amongst those he is doing battle with this week is DJ Trahan, one of the leading candidates for an American wild card, and Bristol’s Chris Wood, who is making his professional debut four weeks after his spectacular fifth place at The Open.

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