Golf: Ballesteros takes revenge on Frost: Confident of beating Faldo, Montgomerie will change his putter but not his stroke while wayward Woosnam goes out of bounds in World Match Play

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The Independent Online
THERE were those who were worried about his stamina. Could the 37-year-old with the geriatric back go 36 holes over the Burma Road? Seve Ballesteros provided the perfect answer in the first round of the World Match Play Championship yesterday when he ensured he would have a siesta before afternoon tea.

Ballesteros, making his 19th successive appearance in the autumn classic, has played some vintage golf here in that time, notably of course when winning the title five times. Nothing, however, could compare with what he produced yesterday: 13 birdies, no bogeys in 29 holes. 'It was fantastic,' he said. 'I drove very well, my irons were good. . . my short game. . . my putting. It was my day.'

What made this exhibition in shot-making all the sweeter is that David Frost, the man at the receiving end of the onslaught, had his finger on the trigger 12 months ago. Frost defeated a despondent Ballesteros 7 and 6; yesterday, the Spaniard did him 8 and 7 after going into lunch four up following a 63.

'I said I needed something special and that was very special,' Ballesteros said.

Frost said: 'I didn't play as badly today as he played last year. You learn to accept the good days and the bad but I didn't have a bad day. I ran into a brick wall and the wall wasn't going to move. He played simply superb golf.' Frost was only a stroke outside the score he made last year. In the morning, Ballesteros went to the turn in 30 with five birdies in a row from the third; he had another four in coming back in 33.

Frost, who spent the early part of the week hunting game at Six Mile Bottom near Newmarket, shot 67 in the morning - he had six birdies - and still found himself staring down both barrels.

Ballesteros finished him off with three birdies in a row from the ninth in the afternoon. 'I won as quick as possible to have a rest,' he said.

Ballesteros had begun the day at 8-1, joint sixth in the betting with Ian Woosnam. Brad Faxon did a Moldova on the Welshman, winning at the 36th after losing the 34th and 35th holes.

'I choked like a big dog,' Faxon said but he still emerged with the bone.

Woosnam, who received pounds 25,000 as a first-round loser, had no confidence in his swing and he conceded the advantage to the American at the 17th. Woosnam, in perfect position, hooked a three-wood out of bounds into a splendid garden; he dropped another ball only to repeat the shot. Faxon, who had hit his second shot to the right, was not required to play a third. Colin Montgomerie, who defeated Yoshinori Mizumaki at the 37th last year, beat him 2 and 1. It was nip and tuck again until Montgomerie finally managed to sink a putt of any decent length at the 35th.

''I've never hit the ball better from tee to green but my putting was terrible,' Montgomerie said. 'Terrible.'

For today's second-round match with Nick Faldo, Montgomerie will change his putter, with which he has won three tournaments, but not his putting stroke. 'I have never putted cack-handed,' Montgomerie said. 'When you get to that stage, where do you go from there?'

He was reminded that Faldo has resorted to putting with his right hand above left, the opposite of the orthodox grip. 'Good for him,' Montgomerie replied. The Scotsman thinks he can take Faldo and is grateful that he is not in the same half of the draw as Ballesteros.

'Seve is the best match player in the world,' he said, 'and he proved it. Frost is one of the most consistent performers and to be beaten 8 and 7 says something.'

Faldo, beaten by Corey Pavin in last year's final, predicted that, with a combination of glorious weather and greens that even he approves of, there would be low-scoring matches. Nobody, however, was quite prepared for Ballesteros's burst. Wentworth has never looked better and nor has the rejuvenated Spaniard.

Today he plays another South African, Ernie Els and the US Open champion's legs are not only fresher but 13 years younger. They have played only one hole together and that was when Ballesteros beat Els, and Jose-Maria Olazabal, to win the German Masters two weeks ago in sudden death.

'I know who Ernie Els is,' Ballesteros said. 'I will need something special to win.'

TODAY'S TEE-OFF TIMES: 8.30am and 1.0pm C Pavin (US) v V Singh (Fiji); 8.45 and 1.15 N Faldo (GB) v C Montgomerie (GB); 9.0 and 1.30 E Els (SA) v S Ballesteros (Sp); 9.15 and 1.45 J M Olazabal (Sp) v B Faxon (US).

(Photograph and graphic omitted)

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