Thursday, 18 May 2006

Arsenal fan Ian Poulter took longer to complete his first round in the Nissan Irish Open than he needed to travel from Dublin and Paris to watch his beloved Gunners in the Champions League final against Barcelona – but took greater pleasure with the outcome of his day’s work.


Poulter fired a one under par 71 after spending 13 hours 20 minutes at Carton House Golf Club to move within a shot of fellow Englishman Iain Pyman, who was leader in the clubhouse when play was suspended at twilight.


High winds forced a six hour delay after balls began to move on some of the more exposed greens of the Co. Kildare venue, and half of the field  succeeded in completing their first round just after 8pm with the remaining half set to return at 7.30 in the morning to resume their challenge.


In view of the fact that Poulter only managed four hours sleep after his epic journey from Carton House to the Stadt de France to witness Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat, it was an impressive effort in the worst of the weather and he looked set to share the lead with Ireland’s Padraig Harrington on 71 before three successive birdies and a closing par lifted Pyman to the head of affairs.


“That was bizarre, really” said Poulter. “I didn’t anticipate spending more than 12 hours to complete my round of golf. Unbelievable. It was certainly quicker to jump on a plane to Paris, watched the game, come back and go to bed. All in all, on a couple of hours sleep, I am more than happy to shoot one under in those conditions.


“I thought the conditions at the match last night were rough but I wasn’t expecting this today. It was as tough as it gets, to be honest. To have a pretty constant 25 mile an hour wind, gusting to 40 miles an hour, is tricky. You can’t miss a fairway out there and expect to get it on the green.”


Poulter and Harrington both played their last five holes in driving rain following the six hour delay. Harrington, bidding to become the first winner of his National Championship since John O’Leary in 1982, employed his famed powers to concentration to chisel out a commendable 71.


The Irish Ryder Cup player said: “I’m obviously pleased with that score and play the last five holes in level par. I got myself in good position all day with the exception of leaving myself with some difficult par saving putts. I wasn’t trusting the pace so I was happy enough to get in a few ten footers and that’s what produced a decent score.”


Pyman, who started at the tenth, closed with a flourish, knocking in birdie putts at the sixth, seventh and eighth to lead the tournament. The 33 year old admitted; “That was brutal. Horrific. It was not very nice out there at all. There was no let up whatsoever.”


It was a sterling effort from a player who didn’t think he would even get into the tournament in the first place. On Monday morning he was still third reserve but late that same day he learned that he was playing.

He added: “It makes a nice change from my experience in China recently when I was a reserve but didn’t get in. I basically £1500 blew flying to China

For a couple of days practice before coming home. It wasn’t a great experience.”


While Harrington was working his way into a strong position, it was a different story for another Irish Ryder Cup player. Paul McGinley left the course after playing 13 holes and was admitted into the Cappagh Hospital in Dublin for minor surgery on a troublesome left knee.


McGinley’s untimely retirement from the Nissan Irish Open means he is unlikely to play in next week’s BMW Championship at Wentworth Club. The decision to go ahead with the operation came after McGinley consulted his surgeon in the UK.


“I have been having problems in my knee for some time now and the discomfort has increased to the extent that it was affecting my ability to play shots,” he said.


The operation, under general anaesthetic, is to remove a piece of broken bone floating in his knee. It will be carried out by Mr Ray Moran, brother of former Ireland and Manchester United footballer Kevin Moran.


McGinley was six over par for 13 holes of his first round when play was stopped.

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