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  Monday, 22 July, 2002, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Smyth rolls back the years
BBC Sport Online's Kitrina Douglas

Veteran Irishman Des Smyth was one of the least-noticed successes of this year's Open.

Although the Drogheda man started and finished the event with bogeys, in between he played some of his finest golf for years.

The 49-year-old Smyth, whose best finish in The Open was fourth, way back in 1982, has been a tour professional for nearly 30 years.

His top-30 finish on Sunday - alongside Tiger Woods on level par - is a performance to be proud of.

Des Smyth
Smyth could be Ryder Cup captain in 2005

And it is even more impressive considering that he has only made the cut in seven tour events this season.

I followed Smyth's final round, when he played with Ryder Cup star Thomas Bjorn, along with a huge and enthusiastic gallery.

Despite slipping to a two-over-par 73 on Sunday, Smyth's performance during the tournament will be sure to attract invitations from the US Senior Tour.

Maybe that will embarrass one crowd member who I heard refer to Smyth, rather rudely, as "that old guy".

Despite fast approaching 50, Smyth says he never gets tired playing golf and also never tires of the game.

His enthusiasm is more like that of a 19-year-old.

Heavyweight support

It also strengthens the case for him to be named as captain of the European Ryder Cup team in 2005 when the event will be held at the K Club in Ireland.

Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley have all gone on record supporting Smyth because they believe he has the necessary qualities.

All in all his display at The Open was not a bad week's work for a man who nearly missed out on Muirfield altogether.

Smyth revealed that a few days before the event he had fallen asleep in an awkward position and had woken with his back and neck in spasm.

He was in so much pain he was on the verge of pulling out of the tournament, and it took the tender ministrations of his physiotherapist to ensure he made it to the first tee.

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