Golf: Cejka hits the form of his life

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The Independent Online
Who needs Bernhard Langer anyway? Alex Cejka has taken over the role of leading the German team in the World Cup and today will attempt to win the title for a second time for his adopted country.

But the beauty of the competition is that these are two-man teams and for the first time this week Struver got somewhere near his partner's brilliance with a 67 of his own to Cejka's 65 to take Germany to 24 under par.

They lead by two strokes with a round to go from Ireland, who have spread the load equally between Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley. Both fired on the back nine, matching each other's birdies at the 15th and 16th to pick up four shots.

Neither could beat par on the front nine, but McGinley and Harrington both came home in 32s for 68s, giving them great hopes of following in the footsteps of Harry Bradshaw and Christy O'Connor Snr in 1958. "We are in position," McGinley said. "It is like a grand prix, we are not on pole, but we are right behind. We are combining well and fed off each other on the back nine."

Colin Montgomerie, however, needs to buck the trend of history in that Scotland have never won the World Cup and the European No 1 has never won in America. At 16 under par after his second successive 66, Montgomerie is Cejka's nearest pursuer for the International Trophy in the individual competition, some four strokes behind, but his effort was not helped by Raymond Russell's 74, leaving them four behind the Germans.

Scotland had started the day on 16 under and led by two from Ireland and Sweden, with Germany four back. But Cejka, the Czech-born 26-year- old, continued his dominance with his seventh birdie at the last.

It was only two years ago that Cejka was the next great young thing in European golf as he won three times, including the Volvo Masters. His name has been almost forgotten this year but switching back to a conventional putter, plus a grip change has transformed his game.

Birdies at five of the first six holes took him out in 31 as Struver eventually found his game. After two rounds, Struver was one over par and tied for 40th in the individual with Jorge Berendt, of Argentina, and Danilo Cabajar, from the Philippines, some 14 strokes behind Cejka.

In 1993 Struver was 11 over while Langer was unbeatable on his own at 16 under. In contrast, three years earlier, Torsten Giedeon matched Langer shot for shot to give Germany the title. Sometimes it can be just too intimidating playing with someone in brilliant form. "I haven't seen anyone play better," Struver said of his countryman. "It looks pretty easy, but I just can't do the same."

All his low scoring - Cejka set the course record with a 63 on Thursday - has made a big divot in the fierce reputation the Ocean Course earned at the 1991 Ryder Cup. By yesterday morning the course was so embarrassed that it was shrouded in a blanket of fog, which delayed play for over two hours.

Now eight years old, the Ocean course has settled into the sand dunes upon which it was placed by the noted designer Pete Dye. Softer and more forgiving, it is not the hard and fast surface that cannoned wayward balls into the dune weeds. "I'm tickled to death about the scoring this week," Dye said. "No one wants to kill me."

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