Golf: Ailing Faldo left in Norman's slipstream

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WHILE the world number one was reduced to a public relations role on the verandah of the clubhouse, the world number two was in the process of compiling a course record in the third round of the Johnnie Walker Classic at the Blue Canyon Golf and Country Club. Nick Faldo, who missed the halfway cut, had a photocall; Greg Norman, who has made a dramatic recovery from his sick bed, was in the frame.

Norman, too ill to play a practice round, found an echo in the Canyon yesterday with a typically gung-ho round of 64. He went out in 32, came back in 32 and that drove him from one over par for the tournament to seven under. He is in very good company. Ian Woosnam and Fred Couples are the joint leaders at eight under, followed by Norman, Bernhard Langer and Chin-Sheng Hsieh of Taiwan. That's a leaderboard made in heaven or, in the case of the sponsors, a distillery. The reason the European Tour has found itself on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean is that Black Label is almost as popular here - although about pounds 50 more expensive - as iced water.

The cut was made at four over par and Faldo missed it by one stroke. The field consists of the world's best players and one overweight teenager who happens to like golf. He also happens to be related to the Sultan of Brunei. What they are getting for this little detour nobody will say but it could be the biggest act of benevolence since Marshall Aid. Marshall's plan, though, was for the needy.

Which brings us to Faldo and his appearance yesterday before an album of photographers. Despite the fact that he played only two rounds he still received his customary appearance money and therefore was in the market for PR. Napa Palikomol fell and broke his leg trying to get a photograph of Faldo on Thursday and was taken to hospital for an operation. He was rushed back to the course yesterday to get the limb autographed by the world No 1.

Faldo could learn today that he is no longer the number one. If Norman is still prominent on the leaderboard at the end of the fourth round he will displace the Englishman in the Sony world rankings. The Australian doesn't give a fig. 'I don't care about being ranked number one and I'll never have it in my contracts.'

Last July he won the Open Championship with a final round of 64 at Royal St George's but there are significant differences between Kent and Phuket. He arrived here feeling poorly and was close to withdrawing. Second to Ernie Els in Dubai last week, Norman found he was allergic to something in the desert and by the time he got to Phuket he had fluid in his right lung. With one leap, and antibiotics and rest, he was free and, despite losing 12lbs in weight, he amassed eight birdies in the third round. 'Mickey Mouse', is how he described the course, although after his 64 he said it was 'moving up the Disney scale'.

Today Norman is paired with Hsieh and Woosnam with Couples. The Welshman and the American have rediscovered their form after poor performances last week. Woosnam shot 68, Couples 70, and both had Norman in mind. 'If I was playing with him I'd be nervous,' Couples said. 'He's like the invisible man,' Woosnam said. 'I haven't seen him all week.'

Woosnam will see Norman today - the Australian is playing directly in front of him.

(Photograph omitted)