Faldo's rhythm falters

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The Independent Online
Nick Faldo, who had been backed down to 9-4 at the halfway stage to win the Volvo PGA Championship, ran into a chicane in the third lap over the Burma Road yesterday and is in need of some fine tuning from his chief mechanic, David Leadbetter. The trouble is Leadbetter has left Wentworth for Tokyo. "I know what I've got to do," Faldo said. "I'm just struggling to do it."

The Masters champion struggled like mad to stay on the leaderboard, managing two bogeys and two birdies in a level par 72 that left him three strokes adrift of the joint leaders, Costantino Rocca and Mark McNulty, and two behind the Scotsman, Paul Lawrie. In this game of swings and roundabouts, the momentum is with Lawrie, who believes he has benefited hugely from a series of sessions with Faldo's ubiquitous guru.

Lawrie, who had a 68 that did not contain a single bogey, worked with Leadbetter here on Thursday and Friday after first consulting him last season. "My swing has improved 100 per cent," Lawrie said, which suggests there must have been something drastically wrong with it. "I'm feeling very sharp and I'm not scared of anybody."

Lawrie, who won the Catalonia Open in March, his maiden Tour victory, said he had paid Leadbetter a "four figure sum" for his services, adding:"It's the best money I've ever spent."

Faldo (you can imagine Leadbetter paying the Englishman rather than the other way round) said he had no touch on the greens. "They are so slow you need to bash the putts," he said. However, what concerned him even more is that his swing has lost its rhythm. "I'm not happy with it," he said."I've got to sort it out. A slower swing would be a start."

Faldo could well have scored worse than a 72 and he still has a chance of winning the PGA, a title he has won on four previous occasions. By contrast, Rocca and McNulty have never taken the chequered flag down the Burma Road.

Although Faldo and Ian Woosnam dovetailed remarkably smoothly in the Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village, Columbus, in 1987, it is fair to assume that, outside the fact that both are clients of IMG, they do not have a great deal in common. You could not imagine Faldo, who likes nothing better than a spell of tinkering with the man he calls "Lead", doing what Woosnam did in the build up to this championship.

The little Welshman, as frustrated as the rest of the superstars after playing the final round of the Benson and Hedges International at The Oxfordshire last Sunday in what appeared to be a wind tunnel, jetted back to his home in Jersey for a session on the snooker table with the former world champion Dennis Taylor. In true hustler fashion, they finished at 10am the next morning.

Yesterday Woosnam, who made the halfway cut here by one stroke, made the most of his reprieve by scoring 68 to stand at five under par for the tournament. He currently leads the Volvo Ranking and as the top two in the money list qualify for the US Open next month, Woosnam's date in Detroit seems secure. He had seven birdies in the third round but dropped shots whenever he found a bunker. "I don't mind what the bunkers are like as long as they are all the same," he said, complaining that some were "like clay."

If Woosnam was once a regular at the Qualifying School, Mark Litton, another Welshman, is more like a season ticket holder. Litton has been to the school on 10 occasions and his career earnings would just about add up to a sum that Woosnam could expect to make for simply appearing at an event. Yesterday Litton, who has made the cut for the first time in Britain, also shot 68. He was six over par after 21 holes and now stands six under. "If I keep playing like this I could win," Litton said, which is a sea change from his thoughts after a couple of double-bogeys in the second round.

The more familiar figure of Colin Montgomerie is also at six under but he continues to be plagued by putting problems. He missed three from four feet and less and said: "I've left a hell of a lot of shots on the course and will have to score something silly to win. I'm quite capable of doing that." Monty doing something silly? Cherish the thought.

Results, Digest, page 23

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