Golf: Brand Jnr relishes Cornish challenge

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The Independent Online
THE CREAM, as is its wont in Cornwall, rises to the top. Or, in the case of St Mellion, disappears without trace. For every hero in the second round of the Benson and Hedges International yesterday there was a fall guy, what the Cornish call a pastie. There were some familiar names on the leaderboard, including Gordon Brand Jnr, Jose-Maria Olazabal, who won this event in 1990, and Nick Faldo, who has won everything but.

There were other names who failed to last Jack Nicklaus's course. The favoured route out of St Mellion is over the Tamar Bridge but some players devised other means. The three-ball of Derrick Cooper, Robert Allenby and Steve Bowman became a two-ball when Cooper retired after nine holes. The official explanation was 'medical reasons'. Ten over par, as Cooper was, is worthy of a prescription.

Allenby, rated in some quarters as the most promising Australian golfer since Greg Norman, had every reason to withdraw. He christened a new pair of shoes, which resulted in severe blisters on his right heel. Attempting to protect the foot, he pulled ligaments in his ankle, damaged his groin and hurt his Achilles tendon. He limped round, and finished with three bogeys in the last four holes. He might have made the cut but that became academic when he signed for a five at the last instead of a six. He was disqualified. 'I knew I had taken a six but I was in so much pain I wasn't concentrating,' Allenby said.

The B and H should come with a health warning. Paul Way made what is probably a unique exit. Very few players have scored five birdies around St Mellion and then neglected to hand in a card. Way, who started at the 10th, had three birdies in four holes from the second. He also had a triple-bogey eight at the seventh. Way still had a chance of making the cut but, playing the ninth, his last hole, he drove out of bounds. From the tee he was unaware of his predicament and he did not hit a provisional ball. After marching up the fairway he decided not to march back to the tee. Instead he walked off the course.

St Mellion, even in favourable conditions, and yesterday they were very favourable, has this effect on people. Not so on Brand Jnr, however, who followed a 67 with a 69 to lead the field on 136, eight under par.

'Maybe I like the more challenging courses,' he said. 'I prefer them to the drive and wedge lay-outs. For some reason I do better on the harder courses.' Brand Jnr, a Scot based in Bristol, has had only two bogeys in two rounds here. On the first day he lost a ball at the 13th and yesterday he three-putted the sixth. Otherwise it was plain sailing. He had four birdies in five holes from the 13th, making putts of six, eight, 15 and four feet.

'The ball has gone where I've aimed it and I've used my head,' Brand Jnr said. 'No one worries me. I've worried about that in the past and it's done me no good at all. I've beaten myself more often than I'd like to think. I wish it was Sunday. There's still the weekend to go.'

Brand Jnr's last victory was at the Benson and Hedges in 1989 - the year he played in the Ryder Cup - but that was at Fulford in York, a course which bears no resemblance whatsoever to St Mellion. Faldo is at four under after another round of 70 and his only dropped stroke came at the 18th where he drove into a bunker. 'It was nearly good,' he said, 'but not quite. I didn't swing very well over the last six holes. My shoulders weren't working right.' The world No 1 retired to the practice ground.

This is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, course in Europe - the cut was made at five over par - and if the weather takes bad, anything can happen. This time last year one Swedish player threw himself into the lake at the 18th, claiming it was warmer there than on terra firma. Another Swede, Joakim Haeggman, is not tempted to take a running jump after a 69 put him at six under.

BENSON AND HEDGES INTERNATIONAL OPEN (St Mellion) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 136 G Brand Jnr 67 69. 138 J Haeggman (Swe) 69 69; P Broadhurst 69 69. 139 M James 68 71; J-M Olazabal (Sp) 67 72. 140 N Faldo 70 70. 141 G Evans 72 69; S Struver (Ger) 67 74; A Oldcorn 71 70. 142 C Rocca (It) 70 72; R Chapman 70 72; C Montgomerie 70 72; P McGinley 72 70; S Ames (Tri) 75 67; A Gillner (Swe) 74 68; D A Russell 70 72. 143 P Senior (Aus) 74 69; V Singh (Fiji) 68 75. 144 P Baker 75 69; M Poxon 72 72; B Lane 69 75; D Clarke 76 68; M Roe 73 71; R Davis (Aus) 71 73; R Goosen (SA) 76 68. 145 A Murray 73 72; D Curry 74 71; A Hunter 77 68; C O'Connor Jnr 71 74; T Johnstone (Zim) 74 71; O Sellberg (Swe) 74 71; D Gilford 69 76; S McAllister 75 70; D W Basson (SA) 74 71. 146 M Mackenzie 72 74; P Affleck 70 76; S Torrance 71 75; J Sewell 70 76; R McFarlane 75 71.

(Photograph omitted)