Golf: Davis completes his recuperation

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The Independent Online
ENGLISH golfers are no strangers to the American Hospital in Dubai and it is a testament to the quality of the institution that David Carter and Brian Davis were competing in the first round of the Volvo PGA Championship here yesterday.

Carter underwent a brain operation after collapsing in his hotel room in Dubai last year. Davis was found on the floor of his hotel room during this year's tournament in March, the 23-year-old from Enfield having blacked out while suffering from chickenpox.

A seven-week recuperation was necessary but it has proved beneficial. Last week Davis was 11th at the Benson and Hedges International and six birdies in his last eight holes on the West Course yesterday left him with a 67 and behind only Swede Michael Jonzon's six-under lead.

"Chickenpox can be dangerous when you get older," explained the second year tour member. "I was in a bad state. I had seriously high blood clot levels and kept passing out. If I had fallen over and hit my head when I was in my hotel room, it could have been life threatening. They kept me in hospital for a week for observation."

Davis picked up the illness from a boy who was let on board his plane from South Africa. "He was only on board for half an hour before a stewardess noticed and called a doctor but obviously on a plane the germs circulate," Davis said.

Davis' run started at the 11th, where his six-iron from the new fairway bunker on the right side of the fairway finished five feet from the hole. Three 12-footers and a couple of tap-ins completed the sequence. Jonzon, not one of the more gregarious of the Swedish golfers, did not drop a shot to devalue his six birdies but the ability to knock spots off the Wentworth layout was hardly contagious.

The greens proved tricky to read, leaving many of the leading contenders only just under par. Ernie Els and Bernhard Langer both returned 69s and Colin Montgomerie a 70. Els and Monty were partnered together and the major flaw in the Scot's game did not escape the South African's attention.

"When Colin misses some putts," Els said, "he lets everyone know." There are days, and this was one of them, when being the first to enquire after Montgomerie's round is ill-advised. On such occasions it does not really matter what is said, as the slightest of tremors can induce volcanic activity.

These supposedly gentle looseners are the responsibility of a press officer, who as well as the sponsor's shirts and sweaters could do with a suitably embossed flak jacket. When the enquiry "How was your putting today, Colin?" brought no response, our hero broke the embarrassing pause with a chuckle and said: "Or is that a bad question?"

"Perhaps," Monty finally replied, "we could start again. It's no laughing matter. This is my job." Sufficient steam having been emitted, Montgomerie was then ready to field other questions. "I've lost the art of scoring," he said. Such a course art depends upon holing the putts to capitalise on fine play from tee-to-green. Montgomerie currently is not doing so. "I keep maximising my score," he said. "I've got to throw a minimum in there."

If there was a hopeful sign, it was that he fulfiled his intention of being more aggressive on the greens. "At least I was missing positively, instead of missing negatively," he said.

The highlight of Els's round came at the par-five 12th, recently extended to 510 yards, where the South African hit a two-iron to two feet to set up an eagle. "I had 236 yards to the hole whereas before it would be a drive and a mid-iron," Els said. "It's a good improvement."

VOLVO PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth) Early first-round leaderboard (GB or Irl unless stated): 6 under: M Jonzon (Swe) (after 18 holes). 5 under: B Davis (18). 4 under: D Howell (18), M Mackenzie (18). 3 under: M McNulty (Zim) (18), C Whitelaw (SA) (18), E Els (SA) (18), M James (18), B Langer (Ger) (18).