Daly's pants made to measure

THE OPEN: Ballesteros rediscovers touch as playing partner leaves spectators at 18th breathless
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The Independent Online
John Daly looked a touch anxious as he launched his tee shot up the 18th hole. Perhaps he was worried about the out of bounds wall, we thought, or the valley of sin at the front of the green. Apparently not. What was raising Daly's pulse rate was whether his ball was destined for the car park at the back of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse.

The 18th measures 354 yards to the flagstick, and Daly's ball travelled 15 yards past it. As he doesn't carry a three-wood, he had considered taking a one-iron, but finally decided on the driver, and very nearly ran out of golf course. Not many golfers three-putted the 18th yesterday and came away with a par.

The most celebrated Open Championship drive on to the 18th green at the Old Course was in 1970, when Jack Nicklaus dropped a reasonable hint that he was not considering a one-iron by peeling off his sweater. Yesterday, Daly didn't even bother removing his windproof jacket.

However, according to Daly, the swing he made on the 18th was nothing more than a gentle flick compared to the putt he struck on the par-four 12th. With a helping breeze over his right shoulder, he made the 316 yards with a one-iron, but flew it far enough left for the players arriving on the adjoining double green to start ferreting around, trying to identify which three of the four balls belonged to them.

Daly paced off 180 feet to the flag, and considered using a wedge. "At home I probably would have done, but I thought there might be some mad people if I took a divot". Daly opted for the putter, and covered all but four of the 180 feet to save his par. "It was the hardest swing I made all day," he said.

His playing partners, Severiano Ballesteros and Larry Mize, are not exactly short hitters, but Daly was often 100 yards past them off the tee. When David Feherty once partnered Daly and Ian Woosnam he said: "They kept looking back to see where I was, and I thought about asking them to call me through."

Daly was only five yards short of the 342-yard par-four 10th, although he confessed to having fuelled it with "four doughnuts and a chocolate chip cookie". Was he concerned about putting on weight, someone asked. "As long as my pants fit, I really don't care," he said.

The American gives the impression that he really doesn't much care whether his pants fall down when he's out on the golf course, and his languid demeanour was not even altered by taking a double-bogey seven after failing to get out of a pot bunker at the par-five fifth - the equivalent of three dropped shots for someone with his length.

However, if the sight of Daly pursing his lips is more likely when he reaches for the fag packet than the driver, Ballesteros has a range of expressions wider than the Spanish Pyrenees. When he holed the putt that won the Open here in 1984, his smile would have lit up St Andrews' Bay, but he has a glower capable of plunging an entire golf course into darkness.

When Seve is in one of his moods, the most vulnerable man is the one standing next to him, and a job carrying Ballesteros's bag is not the sort of security to take into the bank manager for an extension on the mortgage. While Daly's caddie appears to be consulted only when he needs a light, Ballesteros's man needs a set of extra firm buttock muscles when his boss asks him which particular club might be required for the next shot.

In an Open at Turnberry, Ballesteros's perfect looking shot to the flag turned out to be two clubs short, and the gallery was treated to a vintage piece of dialogue. "It is not your fault," Ballesteros barked at the quaking wretch. "I say again. It is not your fault. It is my fault. It is my fault for listening to you."

His latest employee is an oriental, but it is not easy to remain inscrutable on the receiving end of a glare from Seve. Yesterday, though, his man only once got the ocular dagger, when Ballesteros's flag-covering second to the 17th landed short, and rolled left into the Road bunker. Seve, though, saved his par with an exquisite shot, and all was forgiven.

Ballesteros's form in the Scottish Open at Carnoustie was so bad that if he had been a normal weekday visitor he might have been challenged to produce a handicap certificate. However, Seve struck the ball sweetly yesterday, and birdies at the 14th, 16th and 18th brought him home in a three-under-par 69.

This was two shots better than Daly, and eight better than Mize, who walked around in an insulated capsule of anonymity as the cheers rang out for his more charismatic playing partners. Arnold Palmer may be the game's biggest legend, but the ovation the great man received as he strode up the 18th fairway for the last time in an Open, might be the equivalent of a polite ripple compared to the decibel count when Seve makes his final walk.