In the immortal words of Alex Ferguson, it’s squeaky bum time for the leading contenders in Rosses Point for the West of Ireland Championship at County Sligo Golf Club.
After battling the elements for 36 holes, there’s no reprieve in round three as the wind continues to blow, but the steady 25 kph breeze of days one and two has given way to a more blustery affair, with gusts regularly exceeding 30 kph and more.
With the top 16 at the end of days play going into the head-to-head match play bracket, the Pat Ruddy Perpetual Trophy awarded to the stroke play leader is a secondary concern. It’s all about cracking that top-16 and giving yourself a chance at overall glory.
“I’ll tell you now, it’s definitely not secured,” said Cian Harkin after posting a best-of-the-week three-under round of 68 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round. “Last year I was in 20th after two days and I maybe got a little comfortable because I knew the conditions were bad and I thought it would play to my advantage, but no, when you’re out here, all it takes is one lapse in concentration and it can lead to double to triple very easily.
“Because the standard of the field is so high, it’s very clustered so if you drop a shot you’re dropping multiple spots so nothing is guaranteed.”
Hot on Harkin’s heels in Irish Amateur Open champion Quentin Carew who arrived in Rosses Point on the back of victory in the Rosslare Scratch Cup, and he’s clearly focused on the match play cutoff point.
“Top 16 yeah,” Carew said, “if you end up winning the Pat Ruddy cup then it’s a lovely bonus, but you’ve just got to get into that top 16 and give yourself a chance from there.”
Having played alongside Carew for the opening rounds, Jack McDonnell is nicely positioned at +3 and he echoed those sentiments. “Yeah, I’d agree,” McDonnell said, “I was in the top-16 all of the last round last and then didn’t finish off well, so yeah, just have to be in it at the end of the day.”
England’s James Claridge is another who’s just one stroke back, and after a bogey-free two-under in round two, the youngster recently described as the ‘most improved golfer in Britain’ is many people’s favourite here.
“If you’re in a position where you can win it, then you try and win it,” Claridge explained, “but we were talking about this last year and Caolan [Rafferty, leading stroke play qualifier in 2022] was leading and ended up getting knocked out in the first round. It’d be nice to win the stroke-play, don’t get me wrong, but you could come 16th and go on to win the whole thing. As long as I get through, then we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
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