Farce at the European Club

By Brian Keogh

The third round of the Irish Professional Championship descended into chaos at The European Club as seven hours and 20 minutes play were lost during the course of a weather-lashed day that featured three suspensions - one for rain and two for sea fog.

Overnight leader Padraig Harrington was due to tee off at 12.06 in the afternoon but did not arrive at the course until 5.45 pm and left shortly after 7.30 pm without hitting a shot after play was finally abandoned due to poor visibility.

With the third round set to resume at 7.30am today, Harrington might not get to tee off in the final round until 3.15 pm at the earliest and will miss a 6 pm chopper ride to Limerick for the wedding reception of JP McManus’s daughter Sue Ann.

Harrington still leads the tournament by two shots on five-under par from Headfort's Brendan McGovern.

He said: "I probably had the most rest in a day that I have ever had during a tournament.

"It is a pity but if we get 36 holes played it won't be so bad.In fact, even if they get 18 holes it won't be bad. All tournaments just need a conclusion.

"From my experience, they want a conclusion to any event and whatever builds up to that - the last few holes - is all that counts.

"I would have liked to have played a few holes today to see what the conditions were like but it was not to be."

As for the wedding, Harrington added: "The plan is to get picked up but I am here to play a golf tournament and that is the story at the end of the day."

Just eight groups managed to tee off on the Wicklow links when persistent heavy rain forced play to be suspended after just 95 minutes play at 9.35 am.

According to readings taken at Druids Glen yesterday afternoon, just over an inch of rain (30 mm) fell in the space of eight hours.

Just 45 minutes play were possible when a thick sea haar rolled in and players complained that they could not see where the ball was landing.

But that delay lasted just ten minutes before the the tournament controllers decided that visibility was good enough to resume.

After another hour's play, the haar rolled in again and players struggled to see more than 200 yards and when play was finally abandonded for the day, five groups were playing the par-five third hole.

Michael McCumiskey, secretary of the PGA Irish Region, faces a massive task to complete 36 holes today and avoid the third 54-hole championship since 1998.

McCumiskey said: "There are still five third round matches to tee off and they will finish teeing off by 8.15 and we intended having a draw for round four between 1.15 and 1.30.

"We plan to have a two-tee start - 13 matches off each tee - and have everyone off the tee between 3.15 pm and 3.30 pm, weather permitting.”