Golf: Faldo falls out of step with swing

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The Independent Online
In Nick Faldo's luggage when he crossed the Atlantic was his video camera. It is unlikely to have been utilised for capturing the glories of the Chateau de Versailles and its gardens for viewing during those long winter evenings in Florida. The setting for this video nasty is the practice range here.

"I may only be a pause button away from a good swing," Faldo said on Wednesday. Perhaps he left it on. A three-over-par 73 left him eight adrift of Jamie Spence after round one of the Lancome Trophy. Spence has become more focused since working with a martial arts specialist, Chris Linstead, but Faldo was out of the frame. He had to play a recovery shot at the 17th backhanded before he took a double-bogey at the par-three last.

"Send my apologies," was the message relayed to the press room as Faldo headed back to the practice ground. "I was blocking everything." Ian Woosnam, too, had other places to be after finishing his round of 67. A stiff neck and back spasm meant he ended the day flat on his stomach on the physio's bench. He was able to take some medication after nine holes and four birdies coming home left him only one behind the remorseless Colin Montgomerie.

The marathon that is the Order of Merit race is a test of stamina and Montgomerie, the No 1 for the last three years, is also feeling the effects. "I am tired at the moment, mentally more than physically," Monty said. "But this is keeping me going. I don't want to give up the No 1 spot. Woosie is still my biggest threat and he's playing well himself. At this stage every shot is vital and every pound is vital."

It was a missed tap-in at his 13th hole that set up a finish of three birdies in the last five. "I was annoyed," he said. "You cannot afford to throw away shots against a quality field like this. You have to wake up and get on with it." Monty's 66 put him in second with Stuart Cage and Andrew Coltart, two young Britons who could be pushing for Ryder Cup honours next year, and Jesper Parnevik.

A fifth place finish at the USPGA Championship prompted a good month on the US tour for the Swede but, as he is not a member of the European tour, Parnevik is not eligible for Ryder Cup points. His only hope is a wild card selection, which means the big stars have to qualify first. Bernhard Langer may have taken a step towards ensuring that by making the inevitable switch to the broomhandled putter for the first time in competition.

The result, despite wayward driving, was five birdies in a front nine of 30 and he finished on 67. "The other one was not working," Langer said. "I practised with this one since Monday and I am happy with it today. As long as it works reasonably it will stay in the bag. It still feels awkward, but I'll use anything that gets the ball in the hole."

John Hawksworth, who has won his European card twice and lost it in the same year each time, qualified for the Tour School for the ninth time in 11 years at Manchester yesterday. He shot a final-round 70 to finish 12 under par, one behind overnight leader Sebastien Delagrange, who closed with a 71.

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