Darren Clarke was two over par when he started off his final round yesterday.
A nondescript status, really for there were 14 men in front of him on the leaderboard. So there were after the Irishman's first hole but he edged forward a bit when he birdied the second.
When he had finished his third hole, Clarke was two under par and a conspicuous contender. bHe took his five-iron to his 215-yard second to the parfive hole and there followed one of golf's seismic moments. His ball flew into the hole and he had his mark on that very special specimen -- an albatross.
"It was all over the flag all the way," said Clarke.
Two more birdies and he was to the turn in 30 blows, he was four under par and just two shots off the lead. An explosive challenge, or what?
He was five under after twelve and if the leaders weren't exactly quaking, they certainly knew that there was a new player in the game. Then Clarke dropped a shot at the 16th and the promise implicit in that triple birdie did not materialise.
"Couldn't believe that my sand iron could go so far; I had a horrible lie and that took the wind out of my sails," he said. It was a 67, though, and not to be sniffed at.
Nice try, and all that, and Clarke did win an Omega watch, as had Philip Archer and Andrew Coltart who had achieved the feat before him in various parts of Europe. First albatross? "No, I've had a couple more . . . somewhere."
Paul Broadhurst was two shots ahead of Clarke at the start of the round. He had laid the foundations of a challenge but very little happened for him. He had lots of pars --eleven in all -- but only two birdies and that is not a Broadhurst-type of round.
He is not really a par man. Birdies and bogeys are his currency and he did manage four of the latter. He had problems at the eighth were he misjudged the wind, what there was of it, and his tee shot spun back into the water.
"That screwed the round," he said.
But it had been a bad day for him before he even got to the course. When he looked out of his bedroom window and saw that the wind had died, so did his optimism. "I had hoped that it would blow, big time."
An odd preference? Not by his reasoning. When the wind blows, he reckons, you can get away with bad shots. "When it's calm, you really have to play.
"I know that if it's blowing I can get it round. You are going to miss a lot of greens and I know that I've got a pretty good short game to cope with that."
His last act was to prove it. His tee shot at the short 18th found the right-hand bunker, he splashed out to 3ft and holed the putt. This gave him a disappointing 75 and an overall position of three over par.