Golf: Coltart flies the flag for Scotland

Golf

TIM GLOVER

reports from St Andrews

For the first time in Celtic history, a Scotsman willingly distanced himself from a coin of the realm. Sam Torrance said he threw some money into the North Sea here yesterday after a bizarre incident at the third during Scotland's impressive march in the Alfred Dunhill Cup.

Torrance was standing over a 12-inch putt when he picked up his ball marker and failed (this is another first for a Scotsman) to find his pocket. Instead the marker fell to the ground and hit his ball. Torrance suspected he had infringed one of the myriad rules of golf. An official confirmed that Torrance's action had moved the ball: therefore a one-stroke penalty.

Torrance is not superstitious but tends to use, as a ball marker, the coin of the country he is in. Had he used an orthodox marker, the ball probably would not have budged. Anyway, it did and it cost him a five to Heinz Peter Thul's three. The coin? "It's in the bloody sea," Torrance said. The North Sea is not the Trevvi Fountain but if Torrance, who has won nearly pounds 700,000 this year, had a wish it seemed to work. He finished with a 71 and that was three strokes too good for Thul.

Once again Scotland were given a flying start by Andrew Coltart. He shot 66 on Thursday and yesterday he produced a 68 to defeat Alexander Cejka by two strokes. Cejka went out of bounds at the 17th and took six. Coltart took five at the Road Hole and that was his first bogey of the tournament.

"It is a pity this is not the Open Championship," Torrance said. "Coltart would be leading by six strokes." Torrance, the leader of the Volvo Order of Merit, woke up with a chest infection and had to take antibiotics. He should also have consulted a numismatist.

Scotland are the only team with a 100 per cent record. The team spirit is as tight as the Black Watch drum. "It's just a pity I dropped a shot at the 17th," Coltart said. "That's a great shame," Colin Montgomerie interrupted. "We really feel for you..."

"Will you shut up?" Coltart replied.

Today Scotland play South Africa for a place in the semi-finals and Coltart is out first again, this time against Ernie Els. With only one round of the round robin to go, it is clear that England and the United States are living on borrowed time.

England, beaten by Spain on Thursday, went down to Argentina yesterday when Jose Coceres birdied the last to get the better of Mark James by a stroke, 73 to 74. Vicente Fernandez had already beaten Barry Lane by eight strokes. In the final game, Howard Clark defeated Eduardo Romero.

James, one of Europe's Ryder Cup heroes in the singles, was dismissive of the event and was not too complimentary of the venue either. Is it hard, he was asked, to go for the Dunhill Cup after the Ryder Cup? "It's difficult to get up for this, whatever," James replied. "It's cold, the course is bleak and you're nowhere near the crowd."

At the home of golf this almost amounts to sacrilege, especially as the sun shone over the Old Course yesterday. "You learn so little every round here," James said. "The spectators are so far removed from the action they don't know where the second shot goes. Playing St Andrews is like Groundhog Day on grass."

The highlight of James's round, as far as he was concerned, was a triple- bogey six at the 11th hole where he landed in a bottomless bunker, took two to get out and three putted. "It added a little spice," James said. "At least it was different. It made the round roughly interesting." James was in one of his mischievous moods and he admitted there was another reason for his over-par performance. Since drinking champagne at Oak Hill in Rochester after Europe's Ryder Cup victory, half of Yorkshire has kept him well oiled. "The celebrations," James said, "have taken their toll."

Ian Woosnam knows the feeling. The Wales captain pulled a muscle in his back, lifting Costantino Rocca by the 18th at Oak Hill, but yesterday he led his country to a 3-0 victory over New Zealand. In this convoluted format it means that Wales, beaten 3-0 by Zimbabwe on Thursday, still have an outside chance of surviving. There is hardly anybody alive who remembers the last time Wales beat the Kiwis 3-0.

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