Golf: Curry transcends tranquillity

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The Independent Online
Tom Kite, the US Ryder Cup captain, recently visited Valderrama, the venue for this week's Volvo Masters, and was impressed by the stage for next September's match between Europe and America.

"Valderrama is a spectacular golf course, very demanding," Kite said. "It is going to force you to play a lot of quality shots to enable you to score well. There is a lot to learn."

Seve Ballesteros, Kite's opposite number, was pleased that the American was pleased. "I am very happy that he likes the course," Seve said. "That's what happened last time. The Americans liked Oak Hill very much and they lost. I'm delighted if they like the course."

Of the two, Kite has the better chance of being a playing captain. Ballesteros had a second-round 76 here yesterday to be eight over par.

If the Americans will not have long to gain some local knowledge of Valderrama, the European players are still learning after eight years. In Thursday's first round there were only 10 under-par rounds out of 65 (Robert Allenby having long since departed). This on a day of which Jaime Ortiz Patino, president and owner of the club, said: "Without any wind, Valderrama was at its easiest."

Yesterday was similarly breathless, perfect for a late autumn golfing holiday on the Costa del Sol. But the rewards are too high and the test too severe for the players here this week to have a busman's holiday.

After two rounds, only seven players are in sub-par territory, led by Paul Curry on five under. "The course is defenceless at the moment and, with the cream of the European tour here, that shows how good the course is," the first-day leader, Stephen Ames, said. The Trinidad and Tobagan could not get his putter going in a level-par 71 and is one behind Curry, with Andrew Oldcorn and Carl Suneson two further back.

Curry, who added a 69 to his earlier 68, would stick on his five under now if he could. The former Jersey Open winner seems genuinely surprised to find himself in such a position. "I don't remember leading anywhere after two rounds," he said. "I can't say the course suits me. You have to keep the ball in play and that's what I have done for the last two days. I generally can't take courses by the scruff of the neck, but you certainly can't do that here."

Oldcorn's 66 was the only round of the day not to contain a bogey. "Some people get really scared with this course," Oldcorn said, "but I don't think it is that bad. If you hit the ball well you can do well." He chipped in for one birdie and the other four came with putts of no more than eight feet.

Oldcorn, who is now designated a Scotsman after being born in Bolton and then moving north of the border as a boy, has shot rounds of 74 and 66, exactly the same, he has noticed, as last year's winner, Alex Cejka. Colin Montgomerie's hopes of adding to his win and two runners-up finishes took a severe blow when he went to the turn in 40. "I have nothing to say," he said after a 75, before going on as usual.

"I played badly yesterday and worse today. I've developed a hook and I'm fighting it." This is most un-Monty like and he went off to the range to do something about it. Would that be with Bill Ferguson? No, actually. "I've finished with Bill Ferguson. I've finished with Bill Ferguson until I say otherwise. I am going to work on it by myself." Previously, the Scot had said he was only taking a sabbatical from his long-term coach. Meanwhile, in a corner of the practice range set apart from the pros, Ferguson applied himself to the various swings of members of the gallery.