Faldo takes lead with eagle finish

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The Independent Online
When Nick Faldo made his debut at Wentworth 22 years ago in a junior club competition he shot 70 and 76, finished second and won a carriage clock. They say that nobody remembers who finishes second. They do now. Yesterday Faldo was again in the fast lane of the Burma Road and he dominated the leaderboard after the first round of the Volvo PGA Championship.

Faldo, who knows Wentworth like the back of his glove, shot 67, a figure with which he is equally familiar. That was the score he posted in the last round of the Masters at Augusta last month when he played with Greg Norman in the last round. "Too right I'm getting more publicity than Norman," Faldo said. "Greg has been fishing for the last five weeks so they have to write about me. I feel I'm getting recognition for my 67 at the Masters. People are still talking about it."

Norman, who saw a six stroke lead turn into a five stroke loss, is also still talking about it. He has been incommunicado for most of the time on his boat, Aussie Rules, but yesterday the world No 1 did an interview with an Australian radio station. "I really felt angry about what happened," he said. "Every day I've thought why did it happen. I still can't put my finger on it but it's more mental than physical. I'm going to win the Masters one day because I can taste it, feel it, touch it."

There has been no isolation for Faldo on his return to his home course. He may have uprooted to America but when he hit a three-wood approach to within two feet of the flag from 225 yards at the 18th for an eagle three, the cognoscenti huddled around the green beneath their umbrellas gave him the warmest of receptions.

"The finish was the best stroke, the best three-wood I have hit for a long time," Faldo said. He dropped a shot at the third, a hole which caused the severest damage throughout a wet, blustery day, but birdied the fifth, sixth and seventh with putts from 30, 20 and 20 feet.

"It was the best putting round I've had all season," Faldo said. It may have been the best putting round he's had in such miserable conditions but his form on the greens at Augusta National was peerless. Faldo has won the Volvo PGA, one of the flagship tournaments on the European Tour, four times and he seems to be in the mood, and form, for a fifth. Before the tournament began he spoke of a new philosophy. "I can put my record on the wall behind me. It cannot be taken away. I'm trying to be more aggressive. I have a better attitude with my putting. I go for the first putt and if I don't get it, tough. I can just go out and let it happen. Go with the flow. This is a new me."

Faldo had already established the first-round lead and was home and dry by the time Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer were getting entangled in a rule book jungle on the Burma Road. Ballesteros, playing with his new Cobra clubs, had a 77 that included a seven at the 12th. His second shot hit a stone and the ball bounced into the branches of a tree. Fearing further punishment, the ball refused to return to ground. John Paramor, the chief referee and a man who has had summit meetings with Ballesteros on previous occasions in the context of "what happened next", gave the Spaniard his binoculars. Suitably focused, Ballesteros was able to identify his ball which was lodged 30 feet up a pine tree. Declaring it unplayable, he dropped another ball under a one stroke penalty, but before hitting it a gust of wind blew down the original. However, Ballesteros had to play the second ball and to make matters worse he missed the three-foot putt.

Langer had an interesting time on the ninth. He hit his second shot into a ditch and was standing in a hole made by a burrowing animal. He did not realise he was in a hazard when he took relief. He asked what he should do next. Take up snooker was probably the best advice.

The referee on hole nine was Eichii Yabe from the PGA of Japan and he advised Langer, through an interpreter, that he could replace the ball from where he had lifted it, under penalty of one stroke, or drop the ball, using as a point of reference the spot where it had entered the hazard, again under a one stroke penalty. Langer escaped with a bogey five.

Scores from Wentworth

VOLVO PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth) (GB or Irl unless stated): First-round scores: 67 N Faldo. 68 P Curry, M McNulty (Zimb). 69 I Garrido (Sp), R Allenby (Aus), C Rocca (Italy). 70 J Sandelin (Swe), E Darcy, J Haeggman (Swe), P Eales, J M Canizares (Spain), W Westner (SA), R Davis (Aus), S Cage, G Brand Jnr, N Fasth (Swe). 71 D Carter, S Grappasonni (Italy), T Johnstone (Zimb), H Clark, E Romero (Arg), D Gilford, A Cejka (Ger), J Robson, S Struver (Ger), S Tinning (Den), J Hawkes (SA), G Orr, P Way, R Chapman, M Gronberg (Swe), S Torrance, A Coltart, R Boxall, P Harrington, J Van de Velde (Fra), S Webster, O Karlsson (Swe), J Rivero (Sp), D Hospital (Spain). 72 T Bjorn (Den), M Mouland, P Fulke (Swe), J Bickerton, F Nobilo (NZ), P O'Malley (Aus), G Turner (NZ), M Lanner (Swe), F Tarnaud (Fra), M A Jimenez (Spain), D Cooper, M James, M Campbell (NZ), P Affleck, R McFarlane, P Mitchell, A Oldcorn, G Emerson, R Burns. 73 T Price (Aus), B McGovern, L Fickling, I Woosnam, G Sherry, S Ames (Tri), P Lawrie, R Goosen (SA), J L Guepy (Fr), R Willison, R Muntz (Neth), S Martin, T Levet (Fr), J Higgins, M Davis, M Roe, J Spence, D Feherty, C Montgomerie, B Langer (Ger), S Luna (Sp), D Robertson, P McGinley, N Briggs, R Wessels (SA), L Westwood. 74 M Farry (Fr), M Poxon, M Harwood (Aus), S Lyle, P Baker, A Bossert (Swit), J Parnevik (Swe), C Mason, D Smyth, C O'Connor Jnr, P Broadhurst, P Carman, M Hallberg (Swe), R Drummond, M Litton, P Sjoland (Swe), A Sherborne, B Lane, S Bottomley. 75 G Howell, J Lomas, P Walton, P-U Johansson (Swe), C Hall, M Mackenzie, M McLean, P Price, S Richardson, S Thompson, A Forsbrand (Swe), R Rafferty, J Payne, R Karlsson (Swe), W Riley (Aus). 76 P Teravainen (US), R Claydon, J Townsend (US), P Moloney (Aus), A Hunter, I Pyman, R Troake, G Furey. 77 J Coceres (Arg), O Rojahn (Nor), C Smellie, M Pinero (Sp), S Ballesteros (Sp), P Linhart (Sp), M Gates, N Brown, C Corrigan. 78 J Morgan, R Mann, T Spence, R Russell, P Hedblom (Swe), M Jonzon (Swe), D Clarke 79 C Cevaer (Fr), J Heggarty. 80 M Clayton (Aus), H Stott, R Davis. 83 D Borrego (Spain). 84 F Lindgren (Swe).