Golf: Ballesteros bothered by timing troubles

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The Independent Online
Bedevilled by the ravages of jet-lag and having breakfasted to the gory sight of English wickets tumbling at The Oval, Colin Montgomerie roused himself to set a new course record, an eight-under-par 64, at the K Club.

Montgomerie led by one from Steven Richardson and the Swede Niclas Fasth, whose name only had to appear on the leaderboard for slow play to once again become an issue, as it did at Loch Lomond during the World Invitational. The feeling then was the tour was not doing enough.

Application of the same regulation yesterday angered one of the tour's bigger fish, the Ryder Cup captain. "It was like we were being hunted," said Seve Ballesteros. "It is not normal to have three referees timing you. There were two referees just on one par-three."

Ballesteros's threeball, which also included the defending champion, Per-Ulrik Johansson, and the Dubliner Padraig Harrington, was first warned on their front nine. But by the time they came off the first green (their 10th), they were 15 minutes behind schedule and Andy McFee, the tournament director, put them on the clock again.

The only bad timing came from Ballesteros on the fifth tee. He took 64 seconds instead of the 50 he was allowed. By now McFee had been called to another group and an assistant, Miguel Vidaor, had to give Ballesteros the news that one more bad time would mean a pounds 500 fine and a one-stroke penalty.

McFee returned to greet Ballesteros at the fifth green and got an earful. Ballesteros's contention was that their group had a large gallery, and that the significance of the occasion for Harrington, who is trying to make the Ryder Cup team, and Johansson, whose place is not absolutely assured, should be taken into account.

"The whole group were affected," Ballesteros, who shot a 73, said. "I three-putted and Harrington and Johansson both missed short putts. We all lost rhythm after that." They came off the clock with three holes to play, but lost 10 minutes in that time. Their four hours and 38 minutes for the round was 18 minutes over schedule.

"It is my job to draw the line somewhere," McFee said. "It actually helps the group in front for a threeball like Seve's to be two or three minutes over, but there is a limit."

n Terry Coates, who threatened to resign as chief executive of the Women's European Tour after an AGM in May turned into what he described as a "bear- pit", is to step down as soon as a successor can be found.