When Séamus Power was searching for his ball, buried somewhere on the downslope of the blind fifth hole known as The Dell, his cause seemed to be a hopeless one. He’d just suffered a horrible double-bogey at the Klondyke on the previous hole and, even after discovering his ball after more than a minute’s search in thick rough, his troubles only seemed to get worse.
Three-over at the time, just about five holes into his second round, his DDF Irish Open involvement was disappearing before his very eyes.
“When I eventually found it, it was up against another ball, so I had to get a ruling. But it was buried and I asked him if it was plugged. I was looking down and I couldn’t get a chance or anything,” recalled Power of his predicament.
What the Waterford man did next was one of those acts of a desperate man. Power swung his club at the hidden ball and it popped out onto the green, finishing 25 feet from the flag. For good measure, he sank the putt to save par. “When I was looking for the ball, I definitely had a moment. I had a couple of minutes waiting for the referee, it gave time to slow down and take a breath.”
Even in those moments, he never regretted his decision to come home to play, rather than staying in the United States where he is battling to retain his PGA Tour card (currently 124th on the FedEx Cup standings).
Nobody, though, could have predicted what would follow for the 32-year-old US-based player, appearing on a sponsor’s invitation, who not only salvaged his round but leapfrogged his way into the fringes of contention with the sort of shot-making unmatched by anyone else in the field.
Power claimed a consoling birdie on the seventh hole to at least give him hope, but it was his homeward journey - one of just 30 strokes and featuring six birdies, including a stretch of four consecutive from the 10th - which transformed his round. “It’s one of those courses. It’s tough. You’ve got to stay patient. I had to talk to myself when I got to three over because it’s not a course where you can go and chase birdies, it was a matter of hanging in.
“You’ve got to be aggressive without getting stupid. I knew I was swinging it well there, especially on the back nine, so when I had short irons I was being a little bit more aggressive than maybe I was (in the first round),” he explained, after compiling a 66 for four-under-par 136.
It was a remarkable change in fortunes, from that ugly double on the fourth: his drive had finished in “a brutal lie” on the right bank, from where his slash of a lob wedge only contrived to send his ball into heavy grass, some 18 inches in the air, beside a bunker and he was forced to call an unplayable. “It happened very quickly, a bad tee shot with a bad break,” he recalled.
To his credit, Power - who had sought an invitation from tournament host Paul McGinley so that he could return to play on a links where he played multiple South of Ireland and youths’ championships - showed his fortitude, so much so that those West Waterford supporters who’d made the journey, easily spotted in their green caps and their man’s name stitched into the side, were able to give their loud approval for his deeds as he concluded with a birdie on the closing green.
“The difference in having a lot of people around rooting for you to turn it around, it’s quite different. In the States if you’re three or four outside the cutline nobody even knows you’re there, so it’s a nice feeling. It’s easier to get the old mental side of it turned around and it was a nice positive and nice to have family and friends out there cheering.”
Power’s back nine enabled him to change his mindset, to alter his goals.
“There are two rounds to go and that’s a long way to go but you have to see if you can get yourself in contention. For me, I can kind of freewheel it to a certain extent, I’m going to really go after it. I’m not in the same place as a lot of the players who are looking for points and stuff for Race for Dubai, for me it’s like a win would be absolutely huge. So (in the third round) it’s hit a lot of good shots and see if I can get myself in a good spot going into Sunday.”