Golf: Couples plays to the gallery

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The Independent Online
EACH of the first two days of the World Cup competition contained a few moments of genuine theatrics, almost all generated by Fred Couples, but the theme of yesterday's third round was volatility.

The defending champion's United States team began the day with a one-shot lead over Zimababwe. By the end, Couples and Davis Love III's lead - 14 under par - over Nick Price and Mark McNulty, had increased to a three-stroke margin, but it was scarcely an easy progression.

There are two immediately obvious distinguishing features of the World Cup, the staggering slowness of play, routinely producing six-and-a-half hour rounds this week, and the rapidity of movement on the leaderboard once action actually does occur. With the scores of both team members counting, several strokes can be won or lost on a single hole.

Over the 18 holes Couples and Love collectively gained 11 strokes and lost eight, see-sawing in and out of the lead until the 14th hole. After the par-four 14th, which Couples birdied with a tap-in after driving the green, the Americans began to move away from the rest of the competition, with both Couples and Love picking up birdies coming in.

Couples expects a similar scenario for the final round. 'We're going to start three shots ahead, but it can go so quickly,' he said. 'At the same time there's no reason to panic if suddenly we're tied after a couples of holes. The main thing is that we've led at the end of every day.'

'We're still waiting to put together one great day,' Love said. 'We've been getting into little lulls - maybe we're tired, or just not concentrating. I feel like we're lucky to be three ahead. We're still looking for one of those days like New Zealand had.'

The team from New Zealand provided the most drama yesterday, with Frank Nobilo and Greg Turner combining to pick up 11 strokes in 13 holes, finishing tied for third. Turner shot 64, one off the Lake Nona course record, while Nobilo had his second straight 69. 'This is the beauty of events like the World Cup - things can change so quickly,' Nobilo said. 'Greg played awesome today, from hole one. He deserved the score, or even one or two better. I was just trying to hang along in the slipstream and make sure his score counted for something.'

The pair had begun the day one over par, 12 shots off the lead, but finished 10 under, four behind the Americans.

Also at 10 under were Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance of Scotland. The two had struggled in the early part of the round, with Torrance making three bogeys, but they finished strongly. Torrance birdied four of the last five holes and Montgomerie added two birdies of his own, propelling the pair back into contention as a team, and Torrance back into the race for the individual trophy.

'The first nine holes today I couldn't hole a shot. My confidence was down,' Torrance said. 'But golf's an amazing game, you just need one shot to turn it all around.' He added pointedly to his partner: 'I'm expecting to see the No 1 in Europe come out and perform tomorrow.'

Torrance's 71 put him at eight under par for the tournament, alone in fourth place and five shots behind the leader, Bernhard Langer. The Masters champion has been playing exceptionally well all week, and as an individual is outscoring every team on the course except the Americans.