Faldo falls short of expectation

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The Independent Online

It was something like the morning after the night before when Nick Faldo returned to competitive action in the MCI Classic here in South Carolina, following his magnificent victory in the US Masters.

There was little doubt that Greg Norman, the man he came from six shots behind to beat at Augusta, was nursing the bigger hangover, but Faldo was also not quite right with a one-under-par 70 littered with brilliant birdies and many mistakes.

Faldo dropped only one shot while disposing of the Australian in the final round in the Masters last Sunday, but he combined six birdies with three bogeys and a double-bogey to slip four strokes behind the early leaders from America, Ken Green, Guy Boros and Jim Furyk, who all opened with 66.

"I made a lot of errors," said Faldo, who refused to blame fatigue for spoiling such a promising start after a hat-trick of birdies from the second hole swiftly sent him to three under par. He added: "I was a little tired, but I played OK. My plan now is to keep getting the birdies but eliminate the errors."

Faldo must have feared the worst when he climbed on to the first tee at the Harbour Town course to a huge greeting from the gallery. He skied his opening drive, the ball travelling barely 200 yards. Even he couldn't help laughing and he said: "My divot has gone further than the ball."

He did rescue a par-four and played two superb approaches for birdies at the second and third before holing from 14 feet for another at the fourth. He was twice in sand two holes later before a 12-footer found the target at the seventh as he went to the turn in 34.

His fifth birdie at the 11th - this time from five yards - got him back to three below par but the good work was undone at the next with a double- bogey six after his second shot clipped the branches of a tree and he three-putted. Faldo birdied the 16th from 25 feet but threw that advantage back when he was bunkered at the next short hole.

Sandy Lyle had four birdies in a level-par 71, and while the British golfers were working on the course, Norman, one of the late starters, was working on his tan, stretched out on the deck of his pounds 5m yacht "Aussie Rules".