Golf: Couples drops in unexpectedly on his pursuers: Montgomerie queers Scotland's pitch as United States gain halfway lead by putting Zimbabweans to flight

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THE UNITED STATES took the lead in the World Cup when Fred Couples made an eagle at the par-four 14th hole yesterday. Couples' shot to the green nearly took out his closest rival, Nick Price, at the same time.

The 14th is a 309-yard par four, drivable with a long tee shot cut over the trees; the green is not visible. Both Couples and his team-mate, Davis Love III, drove to the green, neither realising that Price and Mark McNulty were still on it. 'We never even thought they were there,' Couples said. 'I don't know why, there's someone on every green every time you get over your ball this week.'

According to Price, who was about to address a three-foot putt, Couples' ball, which ended up just two feet from the cup, came inches from hitting him. The first indication that Couples and Love had of their mistake was when they observed the cringing figures of McNulty and Price fleeing the green while Love's tee shot was still in the air.

By the end of the day, the United States, the defending champions, had a one-shot advantage at 11 under par over the Zimbabweans. Australia were next at eight under par, with Scotland alone in fourth place, six shots behind the Americans, and Ireland fifth at five under par.

Scotland had gained the lead halfway through the round when Colin Montgomerie birdied four of the first six holes. He followed with a run of five more birdie chances, all under 10 feet, but missed each one. Montgomerie then made three bogeys coming in, all the result of plugged lies in bunkers.

'I've been in five bunkers this week, and dropped a shot on every occasion, and done well to do so,' Montgomerie said. 'I should have had a 65 or a 66 today without even trying. We should be in a much better position, and it's my fault that we're not.'

Torrance's solid score of 69 put him in second place with Couples and Bernhard Langer in the individual competition, one shot behind the leader, Jean Van de Velde of France. Wales lie in 12th place at three over par after 36 holes, despite a 79 by Ian Woosnam, who usually plays his best golf in World Cups. The English team of David Gilford and Mark James were one shot further back at four over, Gilford shooting a 73 and James going round in 74.

At the bottom of the leaderboard, after two withdrawals and South Korea's disqualification yesterday, are Israel. The two Israelis shot rounds of 82 and 85, bringing their 36-hole aggregate to 343, 55 over par, 13 shots more than Jamaica could manage. Israel has a huge task ahead of them for the weekend if they want to beat the all-time record for high scoring, set by Yugoslavia in the 1975 World Cup, of 780. In order to shoot 781, Rami Assyag and Jacob Avnaim have to be a cumulative 150 additional strokes over par in the next two rounds.

WORLD CUP (Lake Nona) Leading second- round scores: 277 United States (F Couples 66 71, D Love 71 69). 278 Zimbabwe (M McNulty 71 68, N Price 70 69). 280 Australia (R Allenby 72 68, R Davis 70 70). 282 Scotland (S Torrance 68 69, C Montgomerie 75 70). 283 Ireland (R Rafferty 71 69, P McGinley 72 71). 285 South Africa (E Els 69 71, R Goosen 71 74). 286 Germany (B Langer 69 68, S Struver 74 75). 287 Spain (M-A Jimenez 72 70, J Rivero 73 72); New Zealand (F Nobilo 74 69, G Turner 73 73); Sweden (A Forsbrand 71 69, J Haeggman 72 77). 288 France (J Van de Velde 66 70, M Farry 74 80). 289 Wales (M Mouland 68 70, I Woosnam 74 79; Canada (D Barr 74 70, R Zokol 76 71); Brazil (J Corteiz 75 70, A Barcellos 76 70). 292 England (D Gilford 69 73, M James 76 74); Italy (S Grappasonni 74 72, C Rocca 71 75).