Golf: Daly takes his pleasure from a steady round: Olazabal and Allenby share the lead

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The Independent Online
IN ONE respect the sponsors here must be slightly disappointed that John Daly has given up drinking. Whereas Guinness, the arch rival, is oiling the wheels of Jack Charlton's bandwagon in America, the Murphy brewery has splashed out good money for a reformed alcoholic. In every other respect, however, the American with the West Point haircut and barrack room language has lived up to his part of the bargain in the Murphy's Irish Open.

At the fifth hole in the pro-am he used his putter off the tee and hit the ball 200 yards. Yesterday in the second round he had a birdie four at the fifth in the course of compiling a flawless 68. The fifth is a par-five of 537 yards and Daly's drive left him with 176 yards to the flag. He hit an eight-iron to 15 feet. At the 12th (419 yards) he hit driver and a wedge to 18 inches; at the 18th (476 yards) he hit a two- iron and seven-iron to eight feet.

'I had no bogeys. Shit. I can't remember the last time I did that,' Daly said. 'It's kinda exciting being in contention. This is the most comfortable course I've played since Augusta.' The corresponding tournament on the US Tour is the Western Open in Chicago and Motorola, the sponsors, are not happy that Daly is at Mount Juliet instead of Cog Hill Country Club. Motorola have launched an official complaint, pointing out that they are not allowed to pay appearance money.

At six under par for the tournament Daly is only two strokes off the halfway lead, which is shared by Jose-Maria Olazabal, the Masters champion, and the Australian, Robert Allenby, who won his first championship on the European Tour when he took the Honda Open in Hamburg a couple of weeks ago. Olazabal's driving is still suspect but the highlight of his round came at the eighth where he drove into a bunker and then hit a two-iron, out of the sand, 210 yards. He did not consider this to be at all unusual but when pressed he admitted: 'Okay, I hit a good shot.'

The contrast between John 'Wild Thing' Daly and the new- model Seve Ballesteros could not have been greater. Whereas the roundhead was bogey-free, Ballesteros, who began the day in joint second place following a 67, went haywire with a 76 which left him at one under for the championship, seven strokes off the pace. He began bogey, double bogey, double bogey, came back with three birdies and an eagle and finished with a double bogey followed by two bogeys. At the third and the 13th he found two of Jack Nicklaus's lakes. Ballesteros declined an invitation to come into the press tent.

Nick Faldo said he was a 'smidgen out' from playing to the standard to which he is accustomed. Faldo, who kept the trophy for posterity when he won the championship for the third time in a row last year, was not '100 per cent comfortable through impact and the club was too much on the inside.' He shot 71, to stand at four under par for the tournament, and was probably lucky to get that.

Unlike Ballesteros, Faldo does not subscribe to the theory that Mount Juliet is playing easier than last year. 'It's greener and playing longer.' There was one moment of vintage Faldo to savour. He drove into the rough at the fifth from where he hit a two-iron from about 255 yards to within 10 feet of the hole and sank the putt for an eagle three.

MURPHY'S IRISH OPEN (Mount Juliet, Co Kilkenny) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 136 J-M Olazabal (Sp) 68 68; R Allenby (Aus) 68 68. 137 T Johnstone (Zimb) 68 69. 138 M Harwood (Aus) 69 69; P O'Malley (Aus) 70 68; S Torrance 65 73; G Evans 70 68; P Baker 70 68; J Daly (US) 70 68; B Langer (Ger) 70 68. 139 C Parry (Aus) 70 69; L Westwood 68 71; M Clayton (Aus) 68 71; A Binagh (It) 69 70. 140 T Levet (Fr) 71 69; N Faldo 69 71; J Heggarty 71 69; B Nelson (US) 69 71; M McLean 70 70; E Romero (Arg) 69 71; C Montgomerie 70 70; D Hospital (Sp) 69 71; M Gronberg (Swe) 68 72. 141 P-U Johansson (Swe) 72 69; P Lawrie 68 73; S Richardson 71 70; P Moloney (Aus) 71 70; M Miller 70 71; I Palmer (SA) 69 72; N Henning (SA) 73 68.

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