British Amateur champ hanging in at Old Course
AP National Writer
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) – Growing up in South Korea and Australia, Jin Jeong was fascinated by links golf and wondered how he’d fare in conditions so different from what he was used to playing in.
Pretty well, thank you.
The 20-year-old amateur is tied for 12th going into Sunday’s final round at the British Open. At 4 under, he’s 11 strokes behind leader Louis Oosthuizen, but only three from fourth place. Justin Rose (fourth, 1998) and Chris Wood (fifth, 2008) are the only amateurs to manage top-five finishes recently.
“Not great. Not too bad,” Jeong said after his 2-over 74 Saturday. “I had (some) disappointing shots and putts. But I had some good shots, as well.”
Jeong, who moved to Melbourne from his native South Korea three years ago, earned his trip to St. Andrews last month by winning the British Amateur Championship. His 5-and-4 victory over James Byrne of Scotland made him the first Asian champion in the tournament’s 125-year history.
It also completed a sweep of the amateur majors by Korean-born golfers. An Byeong-hun won the U.S. Amateur, and Han Chang-won was the Asian Amateur champion.
“I always hoped that my first major would be the Open,” Jeong said after his win at Muirfield. “It means everything. It’s a dream come true.”
Such big expectations can make for a big case of nerves, but not for Jeong. He’s played with the poise of someone far older, and it’s not until he takes off his sunglasses and baseball cap that he looks his age. His booming drives are comparable to anyone’s – he drove the green on 18 on Saturday – and if he’s lacking anywhere it’s on the greens.
He missed several birdie putts, often burning the edge of the cup.
“I am nervous,” Jeong said. “But I’ve played so many amateur tournaments, and I was nervous there, too. I learned how to control it.”
LOSING IT: Mark Calcavecchia assumed he had lost his ball. Then he assumed someone had found it. The search turned into a fiasco on the par-5 ninth hole and derailed his round.
The 1989 British Open champion, who began Saturday in second place, took a quadruple-bogey 9 after being assessed two penalties worth three shots over a ball that disappeared into a gorse bush.
“It was unfortunate for Calc there,” playing partner Louis Oosthuizen said. “He had a tough few holes.”
Calcavecchia’s drive landed in a bunker, and he had to play out sideways. His third shot, from the fairway, sailed right and disappeared into the gorse. Thinking the ball was lost, Calcavecchia played a provisional and then went to search for the first ball.
Told his ball had been found, Calcavecchia picked up the provisional. But then he discovered the found ball wasn’t his, and he wasn’t able to locate it before the five-minute limit expired.
That meant Calcavecchia took the stroke-and-distance penalty (two shots) under the lost-ball rule, and lost another stroke on the penalty for lifting a provisional without authority.
BETTER MOOD: As disappointed as Rory McIlroy was with the way his round ended, it was sure better than Friday’s finish.
A day after blowing up with an 80, the first-round leader came back with a 3-under 69 on Saturday. The score would have been even better if not for a double bogey on No. 17 after a gust of wind put his approach shot up against the wall behind the green.
“It was great to come out and play nicely the way I did there today,” McIlroy said. “I felt as if I responded quite well to the way everything happened yesterday.”
At 4 under for the tournament, McIlroy is 11 strokes behind leader Louis Oosthuizen. But, as the Northern Irishman learned Thursday, weather can be as big a factor as talent at the Old Course.
The 21-year-old hotshot tied the major-championship record Thursday morning with a 9-under 63 in pristine conditions. But with the wind howling Friday afternoon, McIlroy plunged off the leaderboard. No player had ever shot such a high score after going so low the day before in a major tournament.
McIlroy looked every bit the kid during his miserable round Friday, scuffing the ground with his feet, rolling his eyes and grimacing in disgust. After so much success so early in his career, how he responded to the setback would go a long way in determining his score Saturday.
“It would have been very easy to let yesterday’s round sort of linger, and I just completely got it out of my head,” said McIlroy, who said he ordered room service, watched a little TV and then went to bed. “I think just the response to what happened yesterday was probably the most pleasing thing.”
CLOSE TIES: Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson have more in common than their final-round pairing. Stenson’s caddie is Fanny Sunesson, who also happens to be part of Kaymer’s coaching team.
Sunesson has worked with Kaymer for more than five years, helping the 2007 European rookie of the year with everything from course management to travel. She’s been Stenson’s caddie for the last 3 1/2 years, on the bag when he won last year’s Players Championship.
Sunesson was Nick Faldo’s caddie when he won four of his five major titles, including the 1990 and 1992 British Opens. The 1990 Open was played right here at St. Andrews.
“She’s very experienced. She won four majors with Nick, so she knows what she’s doing,” Stenson said. “She’s very hardworking and dedicated, and she wants to win as bad as I do.”
OFF THE WALL: For a brief moment, Miguel Angel Jimenez made St. Andrews look like a putt-putt course.
The Spaniard tried to loft his ball over a pot bunker in front of the 17th green, only to see it go flying over, bounce off the road and up against a stone boundary wall. The ball was maybe six inches from the wall, Jimenez said, leaving him no room to take a swing.
So he turned around and banged the ball off the wall, sending it ricocheting onto the green.
“I angled it and had to hit it hard,” Jimenez said. “My right hand is still a little bit hurt.”
But the circus shot did little for his scorecard. Jimenez took a double bogey after two-putting, and is tied for 18th at 3 under.
DALY WATCH: Another bad outfit, another bad round for John Daly.
The 1995 champion, who matched his best score at the British Open with a 66 Thursday, failed to break par for a second straight day Saturday. His 2-over 74 would have looked even worse if not for two birdies on the last three holes.
And for those keeping track, Daly traded the garish paisley-patterned pants he wore the first two days for ones with red-and-black zebra stripes.