Becalmed Broadhurst sails ahead

125TH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: Conditions to the liking of Lytham specialist as Faldo keeps in touch with leaders
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Staging the Open Championship on a links course without wind is a bit like running a grand prix with a fleet of Reliant Robins. Lytham was becalmed to such a degree that if you had placed a cigarette paper on top of the Blackpool Tower it would have remained undisturbed.

A posse of Americans, who probably thought they were playing in the Arizona desert rather than on the Lancashire coast, took advantage of the conditions yesterday to appear on the leaderboard after the first round although a Midlander with a good track record around Royal Lytham set the standard. "When I looked at the leaderboard," Paul Broadhurst said, "I was a bit concerned to see all those Americans there."

Broadhurst shot 65, six under par, equalling the course record established by Seve Ballesteros in his famous closing round in 1988. Carl Mason, who finished eagle, birdie to survive the final qualifying, also had a memorable round to keep Nick Faldo company on 68. Broadhurst's best finish in the Open was joint 12th at St Andrews in 1990 when he scored 63 in the third round.

He is familiar with the course here. Broadhurst won the Lytham Trophy eight years ago and went on to receive the silver medal as the leading amateur in the Open at Lytham. That was when it rained so heavily the championship went into a fifth day. There has hardly been a cloud on the horizon so far and the forecast is for more of the same.

There is a huge public bar called the Open Arms to the left of the clubhouse and it was satisfying thirsts about eight hours before the sun slipped over the yard arm. "It's so fiery out there it's not easy to keep the ball on the green," Broadhurst said. His round was extraordinary for a number of reasons. In the third round of the Scottish Open at Carnoustie last week Broadhurst took five putts at the 18th, four of them from about four feet. In the final round he shot 80 in a gale. "It destroys your swing," he said. "I've had to work hard the last three days to get it back."

Nobody starts an Open Championship by hitting, off the tee, a four-iron, two-iron, two-iron, two-iron and five-iron on the first five holes. Broadhurst did. His chipping and putting was exemplary and it needed to be, for he lost count of the number of times he went through the back of the green.

However, he did not need his wedge at the sixth where he hit a five-iron approach from 197 yards to within eight feet of the flag and sank the putt for an eagle three that got him to two under. He went out in 32, came home in 33 and had a total of only 23 putts.

"You feel a bit of pressure when you are leading the Open," Broadhurst said. "I've played in the Ryder Cup and that's the most daunting of all. I'm good enough to win but I'm not going around shouting my mouth off that I'm going to win the Open. If I'm in with a shout I will take it. Normally it's very windy here. It's most unusual. The course relies on the wind. It's summer here and you get some sunny days occasionally. I'm sure the Americans prefer it this way."

Nick Faldo, three strokes behind Broadhurst, also predicted a good week for the Americans. "No breeze, a short golf course," Faldo explained, as if the Americans were used to playing on nothing else. Faldo, who got up at 5am on his 39th birthday, hit a three-iron on the first tee into a bunker, came out to eight feet and missed the putt to record a bogey four.

He had three birdies over the back nine. "It was important to stay close to the leaders," he said. He thought the last nine holes were slow and added: "They should put just enough water on them to keep them alive." He holed nothing until making a 20-footer to save par on the 13th. "The support from the crowd was unbelievable," Faldo said.

Fuzzy Zoeller, one of his playing partners, was under the impression that some of the cheers were for him. "I get a good reaction here because the people see I'm enjoying myself," Fuzzy said. Robert Allenby, the third member of the group, had a triple bogey seven at the third after shanking a shot out of a bunker. The ball hit a woman on the head and that was the last thing she needed as her neck was already in a brace.

No American professional has won the Open at Lytham although Bobby Jones triumphed here in 1926. "The Americans are going to be very strong this week," Faldo maintained. Mark Brooks, Mark O'Meara, Mark McCumber, Brad Faxon, Fred Couples, Loren Roberts and Tom Lehman were all at four under as was the Japanese player Hidemichi Tanaka.

Faxon, who led the Open going into the last round at Turnberry two years ago, played with Colin Montgomerie but despite this he thoroughly enjoyed himself. In fact, Faxon sounded a klaxon for the Open and its traditions. "This," he said, "is the Olympics of golf, the oldest and biggest championship we play.

"Only 11 US Tour players entered the qualifying and only seven turned up. I'm embarrassed by this and I'm not the only one. I don't know why guys that are exempt do not come over."

He had in mind Scott Hoch, who chose to play in Mississippi. "I know Mississippi will shoot me but they should not have a tournament against the British Open. If Hoch wins in Mississippi who cares? He has no business staying home." There is a suspicion that Faxon would be a popular winner with the Royal and Ancient.

Tanaka, who has barely ventured out of Japan, described his 67 as the best of his life. "If I had to mark every round out of 100 I'd give myself 20,000," he said, mysteriously. Tanaka is from Hiroshima and is making his first visit to Europe. He gained an exemption by finishing in the top five on the Japanese Tour. "I never imagined I could have my name on the leaderboard," he said. "Even now I can't believe it."

Nor can Paul Azinger. He missed a putt at the ninth and reacted by breaking his putter over his knee. Forced to putt with a sand iron he finished with a 74.

John Daly, the defending champion, got to five under after 11 holes but dropped strokes over the back nine. "I let a good opportunity slip away," Daly, who shot 70, said. "But it could have been worse. I could still be in the bunker at the 17th."

Ian Woosnam knows the feeling. He took a quadruple bogey eight at the 17th visiting virtually every part of the hole except the fairway.

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