Golf: Drummond still mastering the mind game

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The Independent Online
IT IS safe to say that Ross Drummond will enter new territory today. He has never led a tournament with four rounds to play, mainly because this is the first time he has played in an event that lasts for 108 holes. When Drummond first visited the Qualifying School at the start of his career, in 1975 and 1976, it was a four-round affair, while on his next visit last year bad weather meant the event was curtailed at 72 holes.

The enormity of the situation seemed to get to the 42-year-old Scot. "It doesn't make it any easier," he said of his 67 yesterday at Sotogrande. "You can't think about it too much." You knew what he meant but surely it will and you can. At seven under par, Drummond, along with Sweden's Henrik Nystrom, tops the list of the 181 hopefuls attempting to gain one of the 35 tour cards on offer on Monday.

"I am not playing brilliantly," Drummond said. "But don't write that," he swiftly added. So he was playing brilliantly. "Don't write that, either," he replied.

Drummond once won four Scottish PGA titles in five years but his lengthy European tour career is notable for not containing a victory. This season he only played a handful of tournaments thanks to the generosity of sponsors and their own invitations. At Loch Lomond in July, Drummond led after two rounds, was third with 18 holes to play but a disastrous finish saw him slip to 36th place. A top-seven finish would have seen him regain his tour card.

Nicely tucked into the pack are the three Ryder Cup men in the field, Gordon J Brand and Paul Way at two under and Steven Richardson at one under. Richardson, a former rookie of the year, has turned to a long putter which has made his stroke far more conventional than the suspect slicing action he employed with a regular putter.

Way, one of Justin Rose's predecessors as the wonder boy of British golf, is back for the third time in a row here but feeling less pressure to get his card back. "It is difficult to have ambitions when you have done it all," he admitted. He has built up a lucrative sideline hosting company days where he can regale the punters with stories of playing alongside Seve Ballesteros in the Ryder Cup.

"I feel I am playing the same as when I was successful on tour but the standard has gone up so much," Way added. He is not the only one for whom being a touring pro is not everything. Brand is taking a PGA course to become qualified as a club pro and is open to offers. At 43, the Seniors tour is still seven years away.

Starting the day at six over, Rose was hoping for something like the 65 Alan McLean produced to move from six over to one under. At least the 18-year-old managed his first and second birdies of the week, finishing his round with a 30-footer at the 18th, but a 73 left him at seven over, 14 strokes behind Drummond and in 131st place.

"It's frustrating," Rose said. "But if I can improve by five every day I'll be okay." And the 53 on Monday will be pretty special.

Mac O'Grady has played in a lifetime of Qualifying Schools and it shows. Once again the American had problems with the caddies of his playing partners moving while he was putting. "On the second tee I said: `Let the wars begin again'," O'Grady said.

A friend was due to caddie for O'Grady but instead he is using a local bagman. "He's got a bounce in his step, a sparkle in his eyes, he's a two-handicapper and doesn't speak a language. We speak the same language of golf. There's merriment. It's part of the little romance."

Scores, Digest, page 31