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Stephen Gallacher: Senior Open mayhem was mesmerising

Elements took centre stage in dramatic weekend at Royal Porthcawl in Wales.

Alex Cejka (left) walks on the ninth fairway during day four of the  Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl. Image: PA.
Alex Cejka (left) walks on the ninth fairway during day four of the Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl. Image: PA.

Three words come to mind after watching the dramatic conclusion to the Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl – what a weekend.

The first round was windy but the wind and rain at the weekend was amazing.

Watching the incredible drama unfold reminded me why links golf remains unparalleled.

No other course in the world could withstand the weather conditions which battered the Porthcawl at the weekend.

It was amazing to see it stand up so well to the pounding it took. Anywhere else the course would have been flooded and everyone would have been sitting in the clubhouse.

Conditions like that only happen once every 10 years or so but to see it happen not just on one day but for two days in a row made for compulsive viewing.

No player broke par at the weekend in their round. You have to go back to Royal Aberdeen in 2005 for the last time that happened in the Senior Open so for it to then happen two days running was astonishing.

Honestly, had I been there I would have been celebrating holing a par putt like it was a birdie.

The worst conditions I ever played in was at Royal St George’s in 2011 when Darren Clarke won the Open. The third round on the Saturday morning was a washout and it was brutal.

Seeing guys opting for the double hat look brought those memories flooding back for me and I shared Justin Thomas’ sentiments when he tweeted he couldn’t take his eyes of the carnage unfolding.

It was mesmerising.

Padraig’s pursuit continues

Padraig Harrington was pipped by Alex Cejka in the play-off. Image: PA

Padraig Harrington played tough rounds at the Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club and at the Open at Hoylake. I wonder if those rounds took their toll on him at the death on Sunday.

To lose a play-off for a senior major for the second time this year will have stung him.

I played with Padraig at Royal Porthcawl in the Walker Cup in 1995 and I know how much he wanted to win the Senior Open.

There’s a small band of four – Gary Player, Bob Charles, Tom Watson and Darren Clarke – who have done it and Padraig really wants to join the club.

But I’m sure his time will come.

But credit where it’s due to Alex Cejka. That’s three senior majors to his name now and he played brilliantly on Sunday to win the title.

Dryburgh can be a future major winner

Gemma Dryburgh finished eighth at the Evian Championship. Image: PA

I know my predictions tend to be erratic but if she keeps progressing the way she is then I can see a major win in Gemma Dryburgh’s future.

Dryburgh, who grew up in Westhill, produced a career-best performance in a major as she finished eighth in the Evian Championship at Evian-les-Bains in France.

As she gains more experience the better she is becoming and it wouldn’t surprise me if she won one in the future.

The key to winning a major tournament is experience. If you only play the odd one here and there it becomes a big deal.

The more you play at that level the more comfortable you become to your surroundings and I’m not surprised to see Gemma moving from qualifier to contender.

Her career trajectory is moving upwards at a steady pace and it’s great to see a talented player flying the flag for Scotland like she is.

Gemma’s time will come but I must offer my congratulations to Celine Boutier on winning the tournament.

France’s Celine Boutier celebrates winning the Evian Championship. Image: PA

Winning a major in your homeland is special but to do so by six shots is incredible. There’s an added pressure of being the home favourite but Boutier took it all in her stride and played brilliantly.

Ciganda set a poor example

What a pity then to see one of the big talking points from the tournament being Carlota Ciganda’s disqualification.

The Spaniard was disqualified on Friday for refusing to sign her scorecard after receiving a two-stroke penalty for slow play.

I’ve made my thoughts clear on slow play several times in this column – there’s no excuse for it and I’m afraid to say Ciganda doesn’t have a leg to stand on here.

Her group received a warning at the seventh hole for being out of position then were timed on the eighth.

She was informed at the ninth her time had warranted a two-stroke penalty. When she refused to accept it that was the end of her participation in the tournament.

Given this has happened in a major it has received significant attention and I am firmly of the belief she should have accepted the penalty.

The rules are there for everyone – male, female or junior. If you pick up your ball or kick it from the rough you’ve broken the rules.

Slow play happens because golfers are not switched on. If you are third up in your round then you should have your glove on and be looking at your yardage book and choosing your club while the first player up is playing their shot.

If you are not doing that you are not preparing properly and you only have yourself to blame.

If you’ve been penalised for slow play then you take your medicine.

What you don’t do is refuse to accept your fate. It’s bad etiquette for one, but more importantly a horrible example to set young players.

I’ve got 10 of my Ryder Cup team picked already – but who will make Luke Donald’s team for Rome?

Luke Donald has some difficult decisions to make as Ryder Cup qualification continues this month.

We’re exactly one month out before qualification for the European team for the Ryder Cup closes.

Looking at the current standings I think I can confidently predict 10 of Luke Donald’s 12-man team to face the United States in Rome.

Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovalnd, Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Rose, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Mattt Fitzpatrick are nailed on certainties for me.

You can add Bob MacIntyre and Sepp Straka to the list too.

Much can happen in the last three events and of course form could come into Luke’s thinking too.

He’ll be carefully pondering his potential pairings at this point and that could factor into the final two players on the team.

But I’d expect two of the following five – Yannick Paul, Rasmus Hojgaard, Adrian Meronk, Adrian Otaegui and Pablo Larrazabal – to be the final members of the team.

I know this much though – it’s going to be fun seeing how the next month pans out.