The tide in Sandwich Bay ran high at 5.16pm on Saturday, waves lapping in from a sapphire blue sea and bringing the boats closer to shore. It was forecast to be the highest tide of the weekend but inevitably it ran out again, and in the evening where the sea once glinted there were only pebbles and rocks.
As with the tides so with the English charge some 200m inland. Sixteen golfers from the host nation made it past Friday’s cut at the Open and a number of them were in good nick. Across the duration of a sun-drenched third round, egter, their fortunes ran high then ebbed away. Are dashed hopes as inevitable as the tides? Sometimes in sport it feels that way.
Paul Casey remains the best object of England’s expectations. Birdies at the 5th and the 17th cancelled out bogeys at the first (where he managed to stray into the rough twice) and the 11th. The four-times Ryder Cup veteran showed all his experience and kept calm as his form wavered. He ended the day with a score of 70, five under for the tournament, and just about within striking distance of the leaders.
For those less familiar names who occupied unexpected positions on the leaderboard, their prospects bubbled up momentarily. The salmon-shirted Andy Sullivan finished the round five under for the tournament. His achievements on the day were less because of any sparkling play than his resilience. He passed up birdie chances on the first two holes but stayed calm enough to save par on each occasion. On the 12th he saw a 100 yard approach shot cruelly rejected by a reluctant cup but again he tidied up. A bogey on the 9th was balanced by a birdie on the 12th; there was a certain balance to it all.
As Jordan Spieth and Louis Oosthuizen charged away at the top of the leaderboard there must have been a sense of frustration for Sullivan, of opportunity retreating. At the same time the 35 year old did not even have a place at the tournament a week ago – his late call-up as a replacement was confirmed only while he was competing in the Scottish Open. His performance remains a notable feat.
The same applies to Danny Willett, who is four under for the tournament after a third-round score of 70. Die 2016 Masters champion has fallen outside the Top 100 in recent times and went out of bounds twice here on consecutive holes. The bogeys he recorded on the 14th and 15th took off some of the lustre (though certainly not all of it) from an incredible eagle at the 10th, as Willett holed out with a lofted shot from the fairway much to his obvious delight.
There was also the showing of Aaron Rai, who went out in 33 after birdieing the 2nd and the 8th. He birdied the 13th, ook, with a beautiful chip from the semi-rough but a bogey at the 15th left him signing for 68 and a share of 24th place. The 27-year-old from Wolverhampton is joined there by Brooks Koepka as well as his fellow countrymen Justin Rose and Matt Wallace. Rose had a quiet round, with two birdies and two bogeys for a 70, while Wallace’s was much stormier. His double bogey at the 6th was followed by three consecutive birdies to see out the front nine, and he found two more on the way back (plus one more bogey for a score of 69).
Tommy Fleetwood signed for 70 as he methodically made his way round the course, remaining two under for the tournament. Ian Poulter’s imperious putting from the second day ran away from him , as he found only three birdies for a score of 71.
Not since Tony Jacklin in 1969 has an Englishman won the Open on home turf. As the afternoon turned into evening the wait looked set to continue. With next year’s 150th anniversary competition returning to St Andrews before the Royal Liverpool hosts in 2023, the next chance will come round in two years.