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Ernie Els
Yet again at a major, Ernie Els was good but not quite good enough. (Franklin/Getty Images)

Notebook: Another good but disappointing finish for Els

TURNBERRY, Scotland (PA) -- South African Ernie Els posted yet another top-10 finish at the Open, but once again failed to claim the top prize.

The 38-year-old, victor at Muirfield in 2002 and also a two-time U.S. Open winner, is in a career slump, having not recorded a first-place finish since March 2008.

He has slipped from world No. 1 11 years ago to 24th in the rankings, but his Open record is remarkably consistent, with 13 top-11 finishes in 19 appearances -- the first of which was as an amateur way back in 1989.

Els, after rounds of 69, 72 and 72, was well-placed to claim the outright clubhouse lead, but he bogeyed the par-4 16th and then missed a 12-foot eagle putt at the next, which would have taken him to 1 under.

To compound matters, with only a regulation 4 needed at the last to set a realistic level-par target, he went through the back of the green with his approach, could not get up and down and eventually finished tied for eighth.

ALBATROSS FOR LAWRIE: Former champion Paul Lawrie recorded a rare albatross in the final round on Sunday. Lawrie, the last British player to win a major at Carnoustie in 1999, holed his 4-iron, second shot to the 538-yard par-5 seventh.

It is believed to be only the eighth albatross in Open history, although it is the fifth since 2000. England's Gary Evans was the last man to record a "double eagle" in the Open during his first round at Troon in 2004.

Lawrie had also birdied the third to be out in 31 and improve to 6 over par for the championship.

"I've never holed a second shot before on a par 5,” Lawrie said after completing a round of 68 with a birdie at the 18th. “I had 213 yards to the pin and hit a nice 4-iron and saw it go in too, which was lovely. I don't think it was going in that fast, it was the perfect distance really.

"It's nice to finish on a positive note, I've struggled badly this week with my game, the course has obviously contributed to that, but it was important to get a good round under my belt today,” he explained. "I played an awful lot better today. I saw (coach) Bob Torrance on the range last night for about an hour and a half and again this morning and I quite liked what he had to say.

"He gave me a couple of things to work on today and I hit the ball better, it was like night and day. I'd never worked with Bob before and I'd always wanted him to have a look. Yesterday I really struggled (he shot 76) so I thought I had nothing to lose."

DONALD LAMENTS POOR START: England's Luke Donald posted his best finish in the Open, but was left to rue an opening round which cost him the chance of victory.

While the likes of Miguel Angel Jimenez and Tom Watson were tearing up the Turnberry course in ideal sunny, calm conditions, the Ryder Cup star was laboring to a 1-over 71.

It left him too much ground to catch up though, after posting 72 and 70 on Friday and Saturday, he came in with a final-round 67 to equal the best of the day it was only good enough for a level-par total of 280.

That was good enough to secure a top-10 place -- his previous best was 35th at Hoylake two years ago -- but the 31-year-old knows he missed an opportunity.

"I played solidly today, in fact I played solidly the last three days and the only day I really struggled was the first day in perfect conditions," said the American-based Englishman, who had to pull out of last year's Open at Royal Birkdale because of a wrist injury that sidelined him for several months.

"I can't be disappointed with a 67 today. I would have liked to have holed that (10-foot) putt on the last to get into red numbers but I'm very happy with the way I played,” he said.

"I'm satisfied with the week. The only thing I can be frustrated with is day one; to shoot 1 over and be in 60th or 70th place it was always going to be an uphill struggle after that.

"My game feels good. My goal was to get a little better attuned to links-style golf,” he added. "My record has been miserable up to now so it is nice to come over and figure it out."

GAUNT TO CARRY ON: Australian Daniel Gaunt has been rejuvenated by this week's Open and will not quit the game.

Just less than two weeks ago, after coming through qualifying at Kilmarnock Barassie, the 30-year-old said he was giving himself three weeks to earn some money or he was getting out.

Since he lost his European Tour card in 2004 Gaunt, who is based in England, has been trying to make a living on the EuroPro Tour while also working for a golf merchandising company. But life was getting so tough he was concerned about providing for his wife and two children and seemed ready to quit the sport he first played as a 10-year-old.

But he took heart from an impressive second-round 67 -- which briefly made him the clubhouse leader -- in the worst of the weather conditions and intends to continue his career.

"I know I am good enough to be out here so I'm going to continue and hopefully build the world ranking points up," said Gaunt, who finished 24 over in his first Open. "I'm looking forward to the future. This has been a big week.

“I have shot 67 on one of the toughest days and led the field so for me, I've bettered the world's best players there and proved to myself I can compete against them,” he said. "I was pretty down before I qualified, I was in a bad place mentally and it has turned all around."

LEVET FINISHES IN STYLE: France's Thomas Levet, loser of an Open playoff at Muirfield in 2002, had another Open moment to remember when he holed in one at the 206-yard 15th on Sunday.

Levet, called into the field on Monday when American Brett Quigley chose not to take up his exempt spot, sank a 5-iron in his closing 71. He finished 6  over for the championship.

CASEY VOWS TO BOUNCE BACK: World No. 3 Paul Casey endured a difficult week at the Open, but intends to pick himself up for the final major of the year next month.

Having shot a level-par 70 in his final round to finish 8 over for the tournament, the Englishman wants to put the last few days behind him and focus on the PGA Championship at Hazeltine in just over three weeks' time.

"This week's been very disappointing. It is a great but challenging golf course and I didn't play well enough," said the Ryder Cup star, who has won twice on the European Tour and once in America this year. "Friday was extremely difficult and a case of hanging on and trying not to post a big number so 6 over (he shot 76) was not a good enough job of hanging on. I failed to limit the damage.

"I've played some great golf intermittently but I just didn't put it all together in consistent rounds and made too many errors,” he explained. "There are some good things from this week -- I'm sure I'll think what they are after I've left."

Casey now hopes to be able to put things right at Hazeltine, having first played WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio the week before.

"Firestone is a great golf course and great preparation for the PGA," said the long-hitting Casey, who missed the cut when he made his first PGA Championship appearance -- coincidentally at Hazeltine -- in 2002.

"The rough will be thick with extremely quick greens and there is a great field as well,” he said. "I like Hazeltine as a golf course, and we have 400 more yards on it from last time we were there."
 

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