Faldo must face menace of the `Wild Thing'

60TH US MASTERS: Ryder Cup partners contemplate tough draw. Tim Glover assesses the challenge of Europe's finest in Augusta
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Had he been fit and well Jose-Maria Olazabal would have been a natural front runner in the betting for the Masters, but in his absence the burden of Europe's expectation falls on to the shoulders of the Ryder Cup partners, Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo. The draw, however, has not been kind to either of them.

Faldo, the champion in 1989 and 1990, goes out in the first round today shortly after high noon and it is less the timing that is disadvantageous than the man he is paired with: John Daly. On hearing the draw, it is fair to surmise that Faldo would have held his head in his hands and said something along the lines of: "You cannot be serious." The exiled Englishman would probably have preferred to have been drawn with Jerry Courville Jnr at around midnight.

There are two obvious drawbacks to being paired with the former "Wild Thing". One is that the outlandish Daly attracts huge galleries (there'll be plenty of noise and much whooping and a'hollering) and the other is that off the tee the American will be considerably longer than Faldo. Off the course the two personalities are also miles apart.

The experience is more likely to deflect Faldo than Daly. Faldo has a considerable edge in terms of experience in negotiating Augusta National, but the 29-year-old Daly is younger, stronger and has the game, if not, perhaps, the temperament, to master the course.

Daly is worth a bet. When he won the USPGA Championship at Crooked Stick, Indiana, in 1991 the achievement was considered by most to be a flash in the pan. He was ninth reserve for the tournament, got in at the last minute and proceeded to win it with prodigious driving and equally impressive putting. Thereafter his private life began to unravel like a cheap cardigan: alcoholic, wife-beater, road rage, brushes with the law etc. About the only thing not connected with Daly was mad cow disease.

Following a suspension by the US Tour, he gave up drinking and switched instead to smoking, gambling and eating junk food. The suspicion that his performance at Crooked Stick was some sort of accident, a one-off, was dispelled at St Andrews last summer when he won the Open Championship, taming the Old Course in gale force winds in the final round. Many purists did not think it possible for Daly to win the Open, an achievement at St Andrews that was beyond Harry Vardon and Tom Watson, who between them won 11 Opens.

Daly's record on the US Tour this year has been mediocre. He has not finished higher than 17th in seven starts although he had a tilt at two European Tour events, finishing joint 18th in the Johnnie Walker Classic and joint fifth in the Heineken Classic. More pertinently, though, is his record in the Masters. In four appearances (he was joint third three years ago) he has a stroke average of 72.88 and there is considerable room for improvement.

In theory Augusta National and the Green Jacket seem tailor-made for Daly. Should he win the Masters it would give him the third leg of the four major championships and it would be a fair bet that for the fourth, the US Open, the US Golf Association would make the fairways as narrow as a shoelace and the rough as high as an elephant's eye.

Montgomerie, who is paired with Davis Love III, does not have an impressive record at Augusta National (joint 37th, joint 52nd, missed cut, joint 17th) but his general improvement year by year has taken him to second place in the Sony world rankings with only Greg Norman ahead of him. Norman is one of only seven players to occupy the No 1 spot since the rankings were introduced in 1986. The others are Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Nick Price, Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer but Norman, the greatest money-winner in the game, is the only player never to have been out of the top 10.

Montgomerie has not won a major although he has gone agonisingly close, and Norman has just two to his name although it could be considerably more. On several occasions he has had one hand on the Green Jacket and his wardrobe remains incomplete without one. Monty is fancied on the basis of a flying start to the year with a victory in the Desert Classic in Dubai and second place to Couples in the TPC at Sawgrass. "I'm playing the best golf I've ever played," Monty said yesterday. Norman, who has missed his last two half-way cuts, will appreciate the fact that others are carrying the handicap of favouritism. As always, the outcome will be decided on the super-fast greens. "One of the things that has bothered me in the past has been my putting," Montgomerie said, "but I'm comfortable with it now. There are times when you've got to be very brave. The winner is the man who holes out particularly well and that's what I've got to do. I know that. It's quite a simple objective."

Scotland are well represented in Georgia for in addition to Montgomerie they have Sam Torrance, the runner-up to Monty in the Volvo Order of Merit last season, and Gordon Sherry, the amateur champion. Like Monty, Sherry, who is coached by Sam's father Bob, has been on a diet and has evaporated from 20st to 17st. Sherry is sporting a cap here which bears the initials K F C. Why, he was asked, are you representing Kentucky Fried Chicken? Sherry almost hit the roof of the clubhouse. "It was given to me," he pointed out firmly, "by Kilmarnock Football Club."

That is a marginal improvement on Sam's ball marker which bears the inscription: "This is my f...... spot." If Sam is in contention on Sunday the television broadcasters will have to employ a censor. Torrance plays with the left- handed Phil Mickelson, referred to affectionately by the Scotsman as "Leftie", just as the New Zealander Michael Campbell is described as "Soupie", and Sherry is partnered with another of the American favourites, Couples. As for Sherry's cap, it is possible to read, for Football Club or Fried Chicken, one Fred Couples.

Today's tee-off times

All times BST, US unless stated. * denotes amateur

1245 G Sarazen, B Nelson, S Snead (honorary starters)

1300 C Coody, marker

1309 G Brewer, D Ford

1318 T Aaron, B Casper

1327 B Tway, T Tryba

1336 P Azinger, D Gilford (GB)

1345 N Lancaster, K Triplett

1354 B Bryant, E Dougherty

1403 S Ballesteros (Sp), J Maggert

1412 T Kite, D A Weibring

1421 P Jacobsen, F Nobilo (NZ)

1430 J Sluman, B Faxon

1439 M McCumber, T Herron

1448 L Janzen, N Price (Zim)

1457 B Henninger, S McCarron

1506 A Palmer, *B Marucci

1515 S Lowery, M Roe (GB)

1524 I Baker-Finch (Aus), H Sutton

1533 P Mickelson, S Torrance (GB)

1542 D Waldorf, S Stricker

1551 S Hoch, P Stankowski

1600 R Floyd, D Frost (SA)

1609 J Gallagher Jnr, B Mayfair

1618 G Player (SA), *C Wollman

1627 W Austin, M Brooks

1636 B Glasson, B Estes

1645 L Mize, C Rocca (It)

1654 S Lyle (GB), K Perry

1703 M Calcavecchia, J Huston

1712 F Funk, P Goydos

1721 T Watson, S Elkington (Aus)

1730 B Crenshaw, *T Woods

1739 N Faldo (GB), J Daly

1748 B Langer (Ger), *J Courville Jnr

1757 J Nicklaus, M Campbell (NZ)

1806 J Haas, T Lehman

1815 C Strange, S Simpson

1824 D Love III, C Montgomerie (GB)

1833 F Couples, *G Sherry (GB)

1842 C Pavin, V Singh (Fiji)

1851 P Stewart, M O'Meara

1900 F Zoeller, G Norman (Aus)

1909 I Woosnam (GB), A Cejka (Ger)

1918 C Stadler, E Els (SA)

1927 H Irwin, M Ozaki (Japan)

1936 J Leonard, D Duval

1945 L Roberts, S Higashi (Japan)

1954 D Edwards, J Furyk