Golf: Els shows the way as Faldo fails

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The Independent Online
NICK FALDO'S attempt to start the New Year with a morale-boosting win lay in tatters after he missed the cut in the South African PGA Championship yesterday.

Faldo cut a sorry sight as he added a 76 to his opening-round 77 at the Houghton Golf Club. He missed the three-over-par 147 cut by six shots and headed straight for the practice range in disgust.

"A score like this is golf's little reminder that I obviously haven't worked hard enough on my game," the Englishman said. "Hopefully, after a couple of buckets of balls, I will get the picture. I think I know what I have to do and that's mainly keep my right leg still."

The home favourite Ernie Els fired a 69 to take a two-shot lead at the half-way stage. His two-round total of 136 put him ahead of his fellow South African Richard Kaplan, who shot a 70 for 138.

Kaplan was one stroke ahead of Zimbabwe's Mark McNulty (70) and the first-round leader Nico van Rensburg, who slumped to a 74. America's Bruce Vaughan was another stroke back at 140 after firing a 69.

Peter Baker, who carded a second-round 72, was on 141 along with fellow Englishman Marc Cayeux (68), Welshman Mark Mouland (70), Australian Bruce Leaney (68) and Francis Quinn Jnr (72) of the USA.

McNulty said his playing partner Faldo had been badly out of sorts. "I played with him at the World Cup when everyone was saying `Faldo's back,' but I've never seen him hit the ball so badly," McNulty said.

"He was playing some rank 24-handicap shots out there and it was obviously sad to see. You shake your head in dismay to see someone like him struggling." The Zimbabwean added that after Faldo's first tee shot of the day, he had said: "I may as well walk this course today."

The defending champion, Tony Johnstone of Zimbabwe, also missed the half- way cut by three shots after rounds of 78 and 72.

Els birdied three of the four par-fives and never dropped a single shot to go eight-under-par for the tournament.

Kaplan was making a strong challenge for the lead but lost momentum when he dropped two shots over his last three holes to finish on six-under. He appeared distracted by the large galleries that followed Els, a two- time US Open champion. "I don't really mind the big galleries, but with them all behind Ernie, I hope the marshals are on their toes and stop them moving when he has putted out."

Els said his quest to take revenge for his one-shot defeat by Johnstone in last year's tournament was hampered by a cold putter.

"I missed a short birdie putt on the first hole and that set the tone on the greens for me," he said. "There was a bit of a breeze out there which made the greens firmer, so it was tough to get the ball close to the hole. You had to be patient. Generally, it was very boring golf."

However, he did not mind the soaring temperatures and was looking forward to the third round, despite the baking heat, the fast spiked-up greens and the swirling winds. "It's nice playing in this kind of heat. I'm really loose out there."

In Honolulu, Tommy Tolles, seeking his first PGA Tour title after five years on the circuit, fired nine birdies on his way to a seven-under-par 63 for a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the Hawaiian Open in Honolulu.

Notah Begay, the only full-blooded native American playing on the tour last year, and Mexico's Esteban Toledo, each opened with 65. The reigning Masters and Open champion, Mark O'Meara, celebrating his 42nd birthday, was another stroke off the pace on 66.

SOUTH AFRICAN PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Johannesburg) Leading second round scores: 136 E Els (SA) 67 69. 138 R Kaplan (SA) 68 70. 139 M McNulty (Zim) 69 70; N van Rensburg (SA) 65 74. 140 B Vaughan (US) 71 69. 141 S Leaney (Aus) 73 68; F Quinn Jnr (US) 69 72; P Baker (GB) 69 72; M Cayeux (Zim) 73 68; M Mouland (GB) 71 70. 142 S Webster (GB) 69 73; F Valera (Sp) 73 69; J Singh (Ind) 73 69. 143 A McLardy (SA) 73 70; M Scarpa (It) 72 71; P Lonard (Aus) 73 70; R Muntz (Neth) 68 75; D Frost (SA) 70 73; O Edmond (Fr) 72 71; S Tinning (Den) 72 71. Selected: 152 J Rose 78 74 (GB). 153 N Faldo 77 76 (GB). 156 E Darcy (Irl) 82 74.