Jonathan Caldwell was in the top 10 for the second consecutive week. INPHO/TOMMY DICKSON
By John Manley
Thirteen years have passed since Rory McIlroy and Jonathan Caldwell were part of an Irish/British Walker Cup squad that nearly pulled off an upset victory over an American team of budding stars (Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Billy Horschel, Kyle Stanley, Webb Simpson and others) at Royal County Down. The paths of the Ulstermen have diverged markedly since then, but recent weeks have featured a constancy in their respective games.
Caldwell, searching for his first European Tour win, managed to finish in the top 10 for the second consecutive week on that circuit. He placed joint-fifth in the Italian Open at Chervo Golf Club in Brescia.
The Clandeboye, Co. Down man was always in the hunt in Brescia, but never quite able to pull abreast of the leaders, a task made difficult when England’s Laurie Canter signed to 60 after the first round. Caldwell countered with 67, followed by three consecutive 68s. Three bogeys over a six-hole span on Sunday threatened to cost him critical positioning, but he stopped the bleeding on the backside.
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Caldwell drew to within two strokes of Canter after Sunday’s round, but it was Ross McGowan who caught the rabbit for a one-stroke victory. The fifth hole at Chervo, a par-3, can be fingered as having denied Caldwell his chance at victory. He lost four strokes to par there during the tournament, more than the three that separated him and McGowan. He did ascend 17 rungs on the Race to Dubai ladder, climbing to 105th place.
Cormac Sharvin was ideally placed to join Caldwell amongst the top finishers in Italy after ringing up 69s in his first three rounds. He’d scattered 14 birdies among his first 54 holes, but could muster just one on Sunday as four bogeys helped yield a round of 75. He tied for 60th place, 14 strokes behind McGowan.
Caldwell and Sharvin now soldier on to Cyprus for a two-week stint that has resulted from the cobbling together the remnants of the slate that was abandoned when the pandemic struck.
The Zozo Championship was originally scheduled to return to Japan, but was instead installed at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, the former site of Tiger Woods’ December meeting of the elite.
When last we left McIlroy, he was shaking off the effects of a six-stroke bogey barrage that plagued him late on Sunday in Las Vegas. There was no need of waiting until Sunday at Sherwood to remind himself of that; he got to it in Thursday’s first round, with three bogeys and two doubles on the back nine. His 73 for the round pretty much took him out of the tournament.
Yet, McIlroy must have found something along the way, as the cumulative strokes he lost over the final three rounds (six) were one less than he coughed up during Thursday’s odyssey. He shot 67, 67 and 66 to climb to a share of 17th place, eight shots behind medalist Patrick Cantlay.
McIlroy and the other A List types on the Tour will take a bye this week as the circuit pitches its tent at Port Royal for the Bermuda Championship. Padraig Harrington and Seamus Power comprise the Irish interest.
Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire made the cut at the Drive On Championship, played at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia. Four birdies over the final six holes on Sunday helped lift Meadow into a share of 34th place, 13 strokes off the winning score posted by Ally McDonald. Meadow posted rounds of 74, 70, 71 and 70.
Maguire failed to break par in any of her four rounds, having shot 74, 72, 73 and 73. The par-4 ninth hole was especially difficult for her on the weekend as she took double bogey there both days. She tied for 69th place.