From Brian Keogh at Royal Birkdale
Philip Walton crashed out of the Open after a nightmare 82, handed his son his caddie’s bib as a memento and vowed: I’ll be back.
The battling Malahide man, 46, does not want the 2008 championship at Royal Birkdale to become “The Terminator” of his career.
And while it could be the first and last time his son Rhys, 15, sees him play in a Major Championship, the 1995 Ryder Cup hero has no plans to throw in the towel on his storied golfing career just yet.
After finishing on 19-over par, Walton said: “I will be back again. It won't be the last time I try to play in the Open. I suppose just getting here was a bonus. It is a pity I didn't get the four rounds, but even two rounds was nice.
“I’ll go and try to qualify for Turnberry next year. I am a stubborn so-and-so, you know. I don't know what it is about this tournament and this game but I just won't give up. I’ll go to the European Tour Qualifying School again this year as well.”
After qualifying brilliantly for his 13th Open at West Lancs last week, Walton headed for Southport with a spring in his step after finishing second to Padraig Harrington in the Irish PGA at The European Club.
But his chronic bad back played up in miserable conditions on Merseyside and he had no power in his swing as he racked up eight bogeys and two double bogeys for a 12-over par second round.
Bitterly disappointed not to play all four days, Walton said: “It is a pity but I was playing terrible stuff today. I am not making excuses but my back slipped out yesterday.
“I was putting the ball down after marking it and I thought it was a muscle problem. But it was the disc in the back and it was at me a bit.”
Walton was just as disappointed not to perform for his teenage son Rhys, 15, who is handy nine handicapper himself.
He asked his caddie Stephen Byrne to save the red caddie’s bib for his son in case he never returns to the Open.
But he hopes his battling qualities will be an inspiration to his son, adding: “Hopefully it gives him something to aim at. He is a good lad and quite a good player already.”
Just as he did in his first round 77, Walton dropped three shots in his first three holes, following a bogey at the first with a double bogey at the second, where he three putted after his approach spun back off the green.
He bogeyed the fourth, sixth and ninth to turn in 40 before notching another four bogeys and a double bogey on the trip home.
A gusting south west wind whipped in off the Irish Sea all morning and Walton simply didn’t have the power or the driving accuracy to cope.
Caddie Byrne said: “On the 16th we had 182 front, it's a five wood but it went about 175 yards. Once it gets up, the wind coming in off the sea is just cruel.”
Walton expained: “I hit some terrible shots on nine and ten with a seven iron and an eight iron. I just scabbed them.
“On the 11th I hit a good drive and had a three-iron in but I scabbed it right again. There is no hit there. Absolutely no hit there at the bottom of the swing.”
Walton’s has played just two 36-hole event since last September, missing the cut in the Quinn Direct British Masters at the Belfry last September before taking on Harrington in the Irish PGA last week.
With only Pro-Ams to look forward to before the Q-School, he said: “The concentration is just not as good as it used to be. It is not as sharp.”
But he is not surprised to see Greg Norman near the top of the leaderboard after bumping into him earlier in the week.
Walton said: “He looked very focussed, very business-like. He wasn't talking to anyone, he was just going about his business.”