Golf: Lloyd looks on the bright side after heartbreak

LLOYD SALTMAN headed for Sweden today bitterly disappointed about missing out on a return to St Andrews but feeling confident about his prospects for the rest of the season.

The Lothians star was one of three Scots who lost in play-offs in Fife yesterday for Open Championship spots – and he admitted that hurt badly.

But Saltman has been encouraged by his recent form and is looking to maintain that in this week's Challenge Tour event, The Princess, in Bastad.

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"Missing out on The Open is a sore one, especially after coming so close again, but my game is definitely better than it was when I qualified for Turnberry a year ago," he said.

"I played well last week (in La Gomera] after also doing well in the Scottish Challenge and things are looking good for the rest of the season."

The Aegon player, who qualified at Scotscraig in 2005, looked set to repeat the feat after a first-round 66 earned him a share of the halfway lead.

He was still going strong after seven holes of his second round before suffering a setback at the 17th – his eighth.

"I hit a poor 5-iron off the tee into the right rough," he said. "It was plugged and I chopped it out into a bunker and ended up with a double-bogey.

"It was really tough in the middle of the afternoon round in the wind. It was difficult to get the ball on the green and I made a lot of good up-and-downs."

One of those was a 20-footer for a bogey on the seventh and he was still in with a chance of securing one of the three spots up for grabs after hitting a lovely approach into 15 feet at the last, giving him an eagle putt.

"I knew I probably needed to hole that and it was a good putt but didn't drop," said the former Walker Cup player.

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As a consequence, Saltman found himself up against two Englishmen, Gary Clark and Steven Tilley, in a play-off for two spots after Paul Streeter from Lincoln had secured one with the leading total of 135.

With the majority of those in a sizeable gallery rooting for him, Saltman hit a good tee shot with an iron only to then suffer a nightmare as he didn't catch his second shot right and left it 60 yards short of the green.

He couldn't save his par from there and his dream of returning to the scene of a great memory from his amateur days – winning the Silver Medal for top amateur in 2005 – died as both Clark and Tilley made their 4s.

"I played lovely in the morning and also hit a lot of good shots in afternoon but they didn't come off," he reflected ruefully.

Of the other Lothians players at the four local final qualifying venues, Kings Acre's Andrew Oldcorn came closest to securing a St Andrews spot.

Now on the senior circuit, the former PGA champion carded rounds of 69 and 71 at Fairmont St Andrews to finish in a tie for sixth on four-under.

Oldcorn will be back at the same venue later in the year for the Scottish Senior Open and, if he's not already done it by then, it will provide an excellent opportunity for him to chalk up a first win on the over-50s tour.

Lee Harper finished on 154 (76, 78) at Fairmont St Andrews while, a few miles along the coast, Baberton's Paul Ferrier and former Ratho Park star Craig Gordon were among those who missed out at Kingsbarns.

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Ex-Scottish Boys' champion Ferrier was sitting pretty after a first-round 70 but took five shots more in the afternoon, while Gordon, who was playing with a new set of irons after discovering his grooves didn't conform, had 75 and 76.

Over at Ladybank, John Gallagher opened with a 72 before trimming four shots off that second time around. He finished joint-11th, just ahead of Elliot Saltman (69, 72) and Jamie McLeary (70, 72) while Alan Reid (79, 78) and Mark Kerr (79, 79) were well down the field.

For two other Scots, there was also play-off anguish. James Byrne, the recent Amateur Championship finalist at Muirfield, was pipped at Kingsbarns, where he had opened with an eight-under-par 64, while Eisenhower Trophy team-winning member Callum Macaulay lost out at Ladybank.

Byrne ultimately paid the price for an unfortunate shank in his second round, which cost him a triple-bogey at the fifth – his 14th. "I was hitting a 7-iron for my second shot and don't know what has happened as it went straight right into a bush," rued the Scottish international.

"It's the first shank I've hit in about a year. It was quite unlucky to go right across the fairway into the bush. It could easily have stayed in the rough. It was an unfortunate series of events."

Talking of unfortunate, it was the fourth time that Byrne has narrowly lost out in a bid to qualify for the world's oldest major.

"After the first round, I was thinking this was going to me my year to get into The Open but when I had the shank I thought 'not again'," he admitted.

After playing 11 rounds during the week of the Amateur Championship, Byrne headed straight over to Ireland to play for Europe in last week's Palmer Cup at Royal Portrush.

"It was a lot to ask (to get through the qualifying] and maybe fatigue caught up with me in the second round," admitted the 21-year-old.

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