Golf: Europeans fail to fire in the forest

The Ryder Cup is less than a week away, but at the British Masters not a member of the European team is in sight of the front-runners. Mark Roe is the leader in the clubhouse after two rounds, but what has happened to our valiant men of Valderrama? Andy
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Seve Ballesteros intended to spend this week with his feet up at home relaxing prior to the upcoming events at Valderrama. Pointing his satellite dish in the direction of the English Midlands will not have helped this process.

Although, rather like the week before a major championship, being in contention in the tournament before the Ryder Cup can be a mixed blessing - form OK, but tiring - Ballesteros would doubtless have liked a few more members of his team to be nearer the top of the leaderboard, as opposed to the bottom.

Eight of Europe's Ryder Cup team started the One2One British Masters. Quite how many will still be here when the tournament finishes tomorrow depends on where the cut falls today.

With the event playing catch-up after Thursday's delays, the second round is still to be completed this morning, after which the axe will fall. Whether those on two over remain will be of interest to Colin Montgomerie, Ignacio Garrido and Costantino Rocca. Lee Westwood could be sure his 12 over was not good enough, while Thomas Bjorn found the comparative riches of three under.

Out on the course, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal were also at two over, with Darren Clarke two under, four behind leader Mark Roe when play was suspended.

Safely in the clubhouse, however, at five under were Raymond Russell, who earlier completed a 64 after his eight consecutive birdies of the previous evening, but then found birdies harder to ensnare in a 75, and Phillip Price.

It looked at one point as if Ballesteros had issued a team order to take the weekend off. For those resuming their first rounds and then having immediately to go out again in the pouring rain, it was hard work. The course was playing considerably longer than the previous day.

But it would be inconceivable for Seve to have suggested to Europe's No 1, Montgomerie, who has not missed a cut for over a year, that this would be a good moment to break a run that dates back to the 1996 USPGA.

"There is no benefit at all in missing cuts," Monty said. Needless to say, he was off and running. "I can never think of one benefit, ever, in missing cuts. There is never any plus in missing a cut. Ever. No. You have got to make them. At plus two, I think I have done just enough.''

While Montgomerie was in philosophical mood, he pondered the news that the Ryder Cup will be staged in Ireland in 2005: "That's great, but I'd like to see it in Scotland every two years"; the starting times for next Friday's morning session: "It's at 9.02 - why the two?"; and what he is going to do between flying out to Spain on Monday and the actual match: "If it was my choice, I'd go on Wednesday. You can practice too much. You don't want to leave your best shots on the course in practice."

The answer to the timings is, inevitably, television scheduling, but on the latter matter, Montgomerie is a famous non- practiser. He is about to bring out an instructional video, Monty's Stroke Savers, which describes how to improve in every way possible but by going to the practice range. Might be worth a viewing for his team-mates one evening next week.

ONE 2 ONE BRITISH MASTERS (Forest of Arden, Warwickshire): Leading completed second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 139 P Price 71 68, R Russell 64 75. 141 T Bjorn (Den) 69 72, R Goosen (Rsa) 72 69. 142 D Cole (Aus) 72 70, D Chopra (Swe) 67 75, M James 71 71, M Jonzon (Swe) 70 72, J Townsend (USA) 71 71. 143 R Boxall 71 72. 144 P Quirici (Switz) 70 74, J Van de Velde (Fr) 73 71, R Claydon 68 76, S Luna (Sp) 72 72. 145 M Anglert (Swe) 73 72, T Gogele (Ger) 73 72, I Garbutt 73 72. 146 P Baker 74 72, R Coles 72 74, P Mitchell 75 71, I Garrido (Sp) 76 70, C Montgomerie 72 74, C Rocca (It) 75 71, E Darcy 70 76, A Cabrera (Arg) 71 75, C Mason 70 76.