x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Last-minute Senden has a flying start

Memories of John Daly squeezing into the 1991 US PGA championship as ninth reserve and then winning the tournament sprang to mind as Australia's John Senden claimed an early Open lead.

TURNBERRY // Memories of John Daly squeezing into the 1991 US PGA championship as ninth reserve and then winning the tournament sprang to mind as Australia's John Senden claimed an early Open lead. Senden was originally seventh on the waiting list when the Turnberry line-up was confirmed but found himself up to fourth alternate as he finished his business last weekend in the John Deere Classic on the US Tour.

The temptation was to climb aboard a Sunday night charter from Southern Illinois to Prestwick with other Open competitors, but he concluded that it would have been a wasted trip. He woke up the following morning in his Dallas, Texas, home to find that three more players had withdrawn, so hastily reversed his decision. Then when Jeev Milkha Singh, the Indian with Dubai sponsorship links, complained of damaged ribs, Senden's place was secure.

"I arrived at the airport to see that I had got a text message from my caddie about Jeev," said Senden, "so that was a bonus." Curiously, his victory in the John Deere three years ago had earned him the final qualifying place for the Open then, so he was familiar with the last-minute routine. Jet-lagged and tired, he was grateful that Singh, the man he replaced, had been drawn in the third group of the day with England's Anthony Wall and Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, so his body clock had no trouble coping with the 6.52am tee time and he set off on his way to an impressive opening score of 66.

All of the serious work was done on the closing holes. Having begun his challenge with 12 pars, he then notched three consecutive birdies and added another at the 17th to set the pace for an hour until Tom Watson overtook him. "It's a question of being patient out there and waiting for your chances," said Senden. "Because if you make mistakes on this course they can be extremely costly." wjohnson@thenational.ae