Round-up: McGovern slips back at Q-School; St Andrews to host Senior Open
 Magnus P Atlevi. Picture: Getty Images

Magnus P Atlevi. Picture: Getty Images

McGovern suffers but survives bad day at School

Brendan McGovern fought back from a nightmarish start to keep his hopes alive at the halfway stage of the European Senior Tour Qualifying School Finals in Portugal.

Second overnight following an opening, four under 67 on Pestana Golf Resort’s Vale da Pinta course, the Headfort professional had to play his back nine in one under to salvage a three over 74 and a share of 12th place — just two shots outside the crucial top five.

At one under par, McGovern is seven strokes behind Swede Magnus P Atlevi, whose double bogey at the final hole cost him a Senior Tour card 12 months ago

This time around, Atlevi fired a bogey-free five under par round of 67 to open up a three shot advantage on the rest of the field.

McGovern began with a double bogey seven at the par-five 10th and when he dropped further shots at the 16th and 18th to slip back to level for the tournament, a damaging round looked on the cards

But he drew on his vast experience and after starting for home with four straight pars, he birdied the 182-yard fifth and parred his way home for his 74.

With two rounds to go, McGovern still has a fighting chance of finishing in the top five (no ties) but he may now need a brace of rounds in the 60s if he is to be sure of a full European Senior Tour card this year.

Atlevi – the youngest player in history to earn a card at European Tour Qualifying School as a 17 year old in 1982 – credited mental preparation for his performance in Portugal so far.

“I’m very happy with my round, no complaints,” said the 50 year old. “I played well but I’m only halfway though, there’s a lot of golf left – it’s a good start, I now just need to keep momentum and stay cool.

“I felt pretty confident in my game coming here this week. I’ve been solid for the last couple of years but there’s no guarantees, but I’ve been feeling good so far.

“A great advantage for me has been knowing the course well already. Ever since December, when I decided to come here, I’ve been playing the course in my head, mentally practising for the week.

“The course is in better shape than last year, the greens are smoother so it’s easier to make more putts and that’s an advantage. It’s not a long course so you have to be a bit tactical – you don’t have to play driver, for example. It can be an advantage, but you can really mess up from the tee as well.

“The green areas are tricky, quite sloped, but I’ve been having a good feel with the putter this week so I just need to keep it going for two more days now.”

Atlevi’s nearest rival is England’s Gary Marks who sits on five under par after two rounds in the 60s, tied for second place with Australian Graham Banister, but the 52 year old is aware the job is only half done at this stage.

“Five is that critical number this week so it’s good to be lying second at this halfway point,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work to do yet and I’m not taking anything for granted.

“You can’t control the final number and you can’t control anyone else – I know it’s a cliché, but you just try to hit one good shot at a time. If you can get to the final 18 holes with four or five shots in hand, then you can play strategy.

“My game is looking quite nice at the moment, but there’s always a ‘we’ll see’ until you get to the finishing line on Thursday.”

First round leader, American Chris Hunsucker, recovered from making five bogeys in his outward nine to shoot 72 and sit in fourth spot on four under par.

The top five will earn Senior Tour cards on Thursday, with a play-off for the fifth and final card if necessary, while a cut after tomorrow’s third round will reduce the field, with anyone not within eight shots of fifth place missing out.

Scores after round two

134 M Atlevi (Swe) 68 66,

137 G Banister (Aus) 69 68, G Marks (Eng) 69 68,

138 C Hunsucker (USA) 66 72,

139 B Conser (USA) 69 70, C Dennis (USA) 68 71, Y Nilsson (Swe) 70 69,

140 B Cameron (Eng) 69 71, M Wiggett (Eng) 70 70, N Sweet (Eng) 72 68, J Carter (USA) 72 68,

141 B McGovern (Irl) 67 74, S McNally (Eng) 71 70, M Haddock (am) (Eng) 72 69,

142 K Hutton (Sco) 71 71, K Tarling (Can) 71 71, C Swart (RSA) 70 72, J Murphy (Eng) 69 73, A Fernandez (Chi) 71 71, D Westermark (Swe) 69 73, A Sherborne (Eng) 69 73,

143 J Buendia (Esp) 72 71, R Sabarros (Fra) 74 69, G Ryall (Eng) 72 71, M Bianco (Ita) 73 70, S Bennett (Eng) 72 71, W Grant (Eng) 72 71,

145 J Harrison (Eng) 71 74, P Scott (Eng) 72 73,

146 F Lamare (Fra) 72 74, B Smith (am) (Eng) 72 74,

147 J Sallat (Fra) 75 72, G Wolstenholme (Eng) 73 74, J Sanchez (Mex) 73 74, F Grosset-Grange (Fra) 76 71, J Carriles (Esp) 75 72, A Murray (Eng) 72 75,

149 J Romero (Esp) 73 76, J Lovell (Eng) 73 76, K Smith (Can) 75 74, S McAllister (Sco) 76 73, M Krantz (Swe) 73 76, P Jackson (am) (Eng) 74 75,

150 M Wharton (Eng) 73 77, G Joyner (Aus) 77 73, R Tlhabanyane (RSA) 76 74,

151 M Deboub (Alg) 74 77, T Lawrence (Eng) 75 76,

152 E Kocs (USA) 77 75, J Klubb (Swe) 75 77,

153 P Scarrett (am) (Eng) 80 73,

155 D Edlund (Swe) 76 79, K Tenmark (Swe) 79 76, S Henderson (am) (Sco) 75 80,

156 N Mitchell (Eng) 76 80, G Davies (Wal) 76 80, E Costa (Por) 76 80,

157 D Ray (Eng) 80 77,

159 B Loome (Eng) 85 74,

163 N Gassiebayle (am) (Arg) 81 82

Old Course to host the Senior Open in 2018

 Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, and Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour with the Senior Open trophy. Credit: Getty Images

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, and Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour with the Senior Open trophy. Credit: Getty Images

The Old Course at St Andrews, which has been a regular host to the world’s oldest and most international Major Championship for more than 140 years, will achieve another historic milestone from July 26-29, 2018, by hosting the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex for the first time, writes the European Senior Tour.

Today’s momentous announcement, which was made jointly by The R&A and the European Tour at The Home of Golf, completes the full set of Major Championships to be held over the Old Course.

The 144th Open in 2015 was the 29th occasion on which the Championship has been played at St Andrews. The Ricoh British Women’s Open has been played there on two occasions and the Old Course will now become the 13th venue to accommodate the Senior Open Championship, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary with a return to another famous Scottish venue at Carnoustie.

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, and European Tour CEO, Keith Pelley, welcomed the decision to bring the Senior Open to an iconic location with which many of the world’s greatest senior golfers have a strong affinity.

The announcement also received unanimous support from several golfing greats, including five-time Champion Golfer of the Year and three-time Senior Open winner, Tom Watson, of the United States, who was a prime instigator behind the event heading to St Andrews for the first time.

Although he never claimed the Claret Jug at The Home of Golf – famously finishing tied second behind Seve Ballesteros alongside another European legend in Bernhard Langer in 1984 – Watson spoke today of his desire to compete one last time over the famous links.

The 66-year-old made what he believed would be his final flourish on the Old Course during The Open last year, when he bade an emotional farewell to the Championship, which defined him as a golfer, on the Swilcan Bridge.

Watson is now set to return for one last hurrah, however, alongside a number of champions who can boast victories at St Andrews, including Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and John Daly, who turns 50 this year and is set to make his Senior debut at Carnoustie this July.

Watson has completed all four rounds in every one of the 14 Senior Open Championships in which he has participated. In those 56 rounds he has recorded 20 scores in the sixties and twice carded rounds of 64 on his way to victory in 2003 and 2005, earning just under €1 million in prize money from that Championship alone.

He said: “I am thrilled at the news that the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex will be staged over the Old Course for the first time in 2018. Only last July, I played what I believed would be my final competitive round of golf at The Open, and the reception I received as darkness fell on that Friday evening will stay with me always.

“However, The R&A, the European Tour and the St Andrews Links Trust have shown the spirit of cooperation that exists in the game. By agreeing to bring this wonderful Championship to the Home of Golf in July 2018, they have allowed not just me, but many other great champions, an opportunity to return to a venue that means so much to everyone who plays the game.”

Sir Nick Faldo, who captured the second of his three Open victories at St Andrews in 1990, also bade farewell to The Open on the same Friday as Watson in 2015 but he is already thinking about dusting down the clubs to compete in the Senior Open Presented by Rolex in 2 ½ years’ time.

The six-time Major Champion and Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “It is absolutely fantastic to see the Senior Open Championship going to St Andrews in 2018.  This certainly gives me another golfing goal and I only hope my game is good enough to give it a go on the Old Course!

“It’s a great image, even now, to visualise so many legends of the game gathering again in that famous setting. As a golfer, and a golf fan, I will look forward to it enormously.”

Montgomerie was part of the three-man Scotland team who claimed the Dunhill Cup in 1995. Exactly a decade later the three-time Senior Major Champion finished a credible runner-up behind Tiger Woods in The Open over the Old Course, before going one better in that year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

He commented: “This is great news and will surely deliver the best field ever assembled for the Senior Open Championship. All credit to the powers that be to get the Senior Open at St Andrews for the first time. Even now, more than two years out, I am excited about the prospect. It’s a real coup for The R&A, the European Senior Tour, St Andrews Links Trust, Rolex and everyone associated with the event to get us playing senior golf at St Andrews.

“It will be great to see Tom Watson back, at the age of 68, where we thought he would play in a major for the last time in 2015. However, there will be a lot of other players, like Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer for instance, who will be excited by the prospect. It will be a real celebration of over-50s golf.”

Martin Slumbers said: “There have been many great championships held at St Andrews over the years and it is entirely fitting that the Senior Open should be played at the Home of Golf in 2018. We know that the galleries in St Andrews are passionate about golf and I’m sure they will turn out in strong numbers to see so many renowned senior players competing. It promises to be another wonderful event for golf fans in Scotland.”

Keith Pelley said: “The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex is, without question, the premier tournament in the Senior game and it is fitting, therefore, that it is to be played for the first time at golf’s most iconic venue. Some of the most celebrated players in history have laid claim to the title over the years and we are already looking forward to seeing who will join them on the Roll of Honour. We thank our partners at the R&A and Rolex for their support and I know all of our Senior Tour Members are already looking forward to pitting their wits against the Old Course in July 2018.”