From Brian Keogh in Ballyliffin
On a day when headline acts Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam struggled to perform, it fell to one of the great artists of yesteryear to thrill the golfing aficionados with a vintage performance in the first round of the wind-buffeted Irish Seniors Open at Ballyliffin.
At the age of 72, New Zealander Bob Charles has played with all the legends of the game from Sarazen and Snead to Hogan and Nicklaus. But as he carded a level par 71 to beat his age by a stroke and trail American Alan Tapie by just four shots, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Charles will be battling for victory tomorrow night.
The super-smooth left-hander survived the rain and wind that lashed the venerable Old Links from midday yesterday to card three birdies and three bogeys and finish the day in an 11-man logjam for sixth place alongside the likes of tournament favourites Sam Torrance, Des Smyth and defending champion Costantino Rocca.
He puts his amazing longevity in the game down to a life of moderation and gentle stretching - an stark contrast to the power, torque and knee problems that have forced the game’s modern phenomenon Tiger Woods to take the rest of the year off.
“Moderation is my motto,” said Charles, who became the first left-hander to win a Major when he lifted the 1963 Open Championship after a 36-hole play-off with Phil Rogers at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
“I have a glass of white and a glass of red in the evenings, sometimes I have two glasses of red. I drink wine and water, nothing else. I think tea and coffee are more poisonous than anything else.”
A stiff west wind made scoring tough on Ballyliffin’s revamped Old Links as just five players in the 75-man field broke par with Tapie firing five birdies and a bogey in his 67 to lead by two shots from Italy’s Giusppe Cali and Argentina’s Luis Carbonetti.
Argentina’s Alfonso Barrera and England’s Gordon J Brand hit one under par 70s to share fourth place with Smyth the best of the Irish a stroke further back on level par after erasing a two-over par front nine with a brace of back nine birdies.
Cork’s Denis O’Sullivan had four birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey six in a 72 that left him five strokes off the pace.
“At the end of the day it will be a good score,” O’Sullivan said prophetically. “I played well. Apart from a double on the 13th, where I drove into the hills, and a bogey on the 18th, I played nicely.”
Defending champion Rocca eagled the par five 18th by hitting a three-wood to six feet for his 71 that was matched late in the day by Torrance, who birided the last two holes in the worst of the conditions.
But it was a struggle for many of the big names as Lyle double bogeyed the first and three putted the third to go to three over after three and did well in the end of shoot 73.
Senior “rookie” Ian Woosnam was forced to play the course blind after arriving late due to a death in the family. But it was his niggling hip injury that caused him the most problems as he followed a birdie at the first with six bogeys in an eight-hole stretch either side of the turn for a disappointing, five-over par 76.
Irish Seniors Open (in association with Failte Ireland and Allied Irish Bank)
Ballyliffin GC, Old Links (Par 71)
67 A Tapie (USA) ;
69 G Cali (Ita) ; L Carbonetti (Arg) ;
70 G Brand (Eng) ; A Barrera (Arg) ;
71 B Charles (Nzl) ; M Piñero (Esp) ; D Good (Aus) ; J Quiros (Esp) ; S Torrance (Sco) ; C Rocca (Ita) ; N Job (Eng) ; K Tomori (Jpn) ; S Owen (Nzl) ; B Longmuir (Sco) ; D Smyth (Irl) ;
72 J Bland (RSA) ; A Sowa (Arg) ; B Cameron (Eng) ; J Chillas (Sco) ; D Merriman (Aus) ; T Charnley (Eng) ; D Russell (Eng) ; D O'Sullivan (Irl) ;
73 L Higgins (Irl) ; B Heuchan (Can) ; J Hoskison (Eng) ; D Cambridge (Jam) ; S Lyle (Sco) ; A Garrido (Esp) ; E Rodriguez (Esp) ; T Rastall (Eng) ; B Lincoln (RSA) ; A Murray (Eng) ; J Rhodes (Eng) ; T Giedeon (Ger) ; R Drummond (Sco) ; J Sallat (Fra) ;
74 P O'Hagan (Irl) ; B Larratt (Eng) ; H Carbonetti (Arg) ; A Franco (Par) ; K Spurgeon (Eng) ; E Polland (Nir) ; T Johnstone (Zim) ; T Allen (Eng) ; S Ginn (Aus) ; P Dugeny (Fra) ; J Rivero (Esp) ; E McMenamin (am) (Irl) ;
75 T Gale (Aus) ; G Encina (Chi) ; A Fernandez (Chi) ; S Ebihara (Jpn) ; M Poxon (Eng) ; C Mason (Eng) ; G McGimpsey (am) (Nir) ;
76 J Heggarty (Nir) ; J Hall (Eng) ; D Hospital (Esp) ; T Price (Wal) ; I Woosnam (Wal) ;
77 B Boyd (USA) ; M Miller (Sco) ; J Benda (USA) ; E Darcy (Irl) ; M Bembridge (Eng) ; P Leonard (Nir) ; P Teravainen (USA) ; V Smyth (am) (Irl) ;
78 P Oakley (USA) ; J Bruner (USA) ;
80 I Mosey (Eng) ; M Gray (Sco) ;
83 G Hopkins (USA)