Catriona Matthew will be the solo Scot once again on the LPGA Tour next season after Kylie Walker’s card bid collapsed at the circuit’s qualifying school at Daytona Beach in Florida, where the two other tartan hopefuls – Sally Watson and Gemma Dryburgh – also failed to survive the 72-hole cut.
Walker, a 29-year-old from Glasgow, started the penultimate round at LPGA International sitting just two shots outside the magical top 20 and feeling “confident” about her hopes of joining Matthew on the top circuit in the women’s game. After starting with five straight pars on the Hills Course, Walker was still on course to comfortably be among the top 70 and ties making it through to a last-round shoot-out today, only to suffer that sort of kick in the teeth that golf has a habit of delivering when you least expect it.
All her good work over the previous three days was effectively undone in one fell swoop as the two-times Ladies European Tour winner ran up a quadruple-bogey 8 at the eighth. Clearly unsettled by that setback – who wouldn’t be – Walker let two more shots slip at the next hole and, in truth, there was no way back. Her dream, in fact, quickly turned into something of a nightmare and, following a double-bogey 7 at the 14th, she signed for a nine-over-par 81 to slip outside the top 100 with an eight-over-par total of 296.
It was a sore way for Walker to end a stint that had looked as though it could have been a career-changing week, but she will have no time to lick her wounds. Elie-based Watson (72) and Aberdeen’s Dryburgh (74) both finished on six-over – three below the cut mark. Along with Watson, Walker is jumping on a plane today to head for the United Arab Emirates for the final event of the LET season, the Omega Dubai Ladies’ Masters, starting on Wednesday.
Matthew will be travelling in the opposite direction as she heads home from Japan, where the Scottish No.1 is representing the LET in The Queens presented by Kowa, a new team event. In the second-day foursomes, Matthew and Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera, a fellow former Ladies’ Scottish Open champion, lost 2&1 to Japanese LPGA pair Ayaka Watanabe and Erika Kikuchi.
That success helped the host team secure ten out of a possible 12 points on day two at Miyoshi Golf Club to establish a commanding eight-point lead over the Koreans, with the LET team six points further back in third.
In today’s concluding singles, Matthew was out first against Japan’s Misuzu Narita, writing on Twitter: “Early start for 5.50am bus as it’s a 45-minute ride to the course.”
On the men’s front, Australian Marc Leishman has given himself a golden chance today to make partial amends for the disappointment of losing out in the play-off for this year’s Open at St Andrews. The Australian takes a one-shot lead into the final round of the $6.5 million Nedbank Golf Challenge after Henrik Stenson lost his cool in sweltering conditions at Sun City. Stenson had recovered from the embarrassment of a complete air shot on the second to open up a three-shot lead with three to play, but a three-putt bogey on the 16th coincided with a birdie on the 17th from Leishman, who carded another on the last to complete a superb 66.
Stenson then found a fairway bunker with his tee shot on the last and was so annoyed with the shot and the way the sand had been raked that he picked up his bag and twice slammed it into the ground. The resulting bogey meant the world No.7 had to settle for a 70 to finish 13 under par, with South African Jaco van Zyl on 10 under and American Robert Streb a shot further back.
Russell Knox, the sole Scot in the field, bounced back from his disappointing 76 on Friday with a flawless four-under-par 68 to leap seven spots into a share of 15th on three-under.
Elsewhere, there was disappointment for another Scot, Simon Yates, as the Thai-based player slipped from joint-18th to 62nd after a 78 in the third round of the Ho Tram Open, an Asian Tour event, in Vietnam.
South Africans Dylan Frittelli and Zander Lombard, meanwhile, shared the lead with America’s Harold Varner III going into the final round of the Australian PGA Championship in Queensland, while former Ryder Cup player David Howell underlined his class with a five-shot win in the 54-hole Beko Classic in Belek.