Fog puts Faldo in the dark

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THE large contingent of European players supposedly here to "warm up" for this week's US Open have had to endure repeated jibes about the weather making them feel at home. Since Friday, the Buick Classic has done a passable imitation of the European Grand Prix in Northumberland but Lee Westwood still thought it was worth the trip to Westchester.

"It is better than being at Slaley Hall," he said. "Then my preparations really would be in trouble. At least, I'm in the right country."

Following torrential rainstorms on Friday, definitely more New York than York weather, yesterday morning dawned with a Scottish mist hugging the course. Play did resume on time at eight o'clock but lasted only 40 minutes before it was suspended again due to the fog.

This was just enough time for Nick Faldo to complete the last three holes of his second round but at the expense of dropped shots at the 16th and 17th. He was none too happy at the way things had worked out. "We shouldn't have been out there," he said. "They have called if off now but it hasn't changed. On the 16th [a par three] I couldn't see the pin 209 yards away."

Faldo, however, was prepared to admit to a rare lapse in his own preparations. "I went out not expecting to play and was surprised when the hooter went to start play. I wasn't mentally tuned in but that was my fault."

He found a bunker at the 16th, failing to get up and down, then more sand off the tee at the next. His second hit a tree he was attempting to fly and another shot was dropped. At the last, a par five, Faldo would have expected to get down in two from 100 yards but his wedge shot ran through to the back fringe.

"Tee-to-green I am playing very well," Faldo, whose 70 left him at two over par, said. "I just hit two bad shots and they cost me each time. Now, it would just be good to get in another round to find something for next week." There was also a lingering annoyance having let slip a good position on Friday. He had just collected five birdies in eight holes when play was suspended.

"I was on a good roll at the time. We had played through the really bad stuff so I would have been happy to finish. When you are wet, how much wetter can you get."

Neither did Westwood hold much enthusiasm for returning for the three holes he had left, especially as he had been left behind a tree next to the seventh green overnight. He chipped out to five feet but missed the cut and his 74 left him at level par.

Like most of the leading Euro-peans in the field, Westwood and Faldo had cause to curse their luck of the draw. Not only did they have to play when the wind had got up on Thursday afternoon - Westwood's 68 was bettered by only one other player in his half of the draw - but once the fog lifted yesterday those beginning their second rounds had much easier conditions than in the rain on Friday.

Both Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer missed the cut at six over par while Jose Maria Olazabal was in possible danger of also failing to qualify at three over par.

Kevin Sutherland finally returned to the course almost 48 hours after filing a 64 in his first round. He parred his first six holes and then birdied the 16th to go to eight under before play was suspended again, this time due to lightning in the area. With a six-hour flight to get to this week's destination, a rash of withdrawals came from those at the bottom of the leaderboard.

Westwood has yet to see the Olympic Club in San Francisco, but Faldo was there for two days the week before last and reported that 50 inches of rain over the winter has left the rough "brutally thick". It is not just going to be a problem playing out it, apparently, but even finding the ball in the first place. It's a great straight-forward golf course," added Faldo, who is determined to do something about a record of three missed cuts in the last five majors. "There's only one fairway bunker, there's just trees and rough. The bottom line is that you just have to keep it in play. You don't have to go for anything, just play smart, defensive golf and you'll do great."