Golf: Faldo finds his form to leave Norman floundering

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The Independent Online
ONCE again it was Nick Faldo's day and once again it appears to be Nick Faldo's tournament. On the hottest day yet of the Johnnie Walker Classic, the Englishman chalked his hands and towelled off the perspiration on his face and neck. The rest of the field had no use for a towel. They had thrown it in.

Faldo scored 66 in the third round over the Singapore Island Country Club, following rounds of 67 and 68, and at nine under par for the championship he leads Colin Montgomerie by three strokes and Steven Richardson by five. 'I've improved a hell of a lot,' Faldo said, referring to his startling anonymity in the Desert Classic in Dubai last week. 'I've made a big jump. I'm back to where I was last year.'

Last year he was on top of the world and his form here, in only the third event of the season, has instilled in his competitors a sense of deja vu. At the beginning of the week Greg Norman had a different view: Faldo was going down the stairs, Norman up. In the World Championship in Jamaica in December Norman was five strokes adrift of Faldo going into the final round. He caught him but lost in a play-off. 'I was the only one who believed Faldo could be beaten,' Norman said.

Yesterday the Australian, who shot 68 to stand at three under par, six strokes behind Faldo, was downcast. Asked if he stood a chance he replied: 'Not on these greens. The bad putts go in, the good ones miss. You don't get the reward for playing good golf.' This cannot be strictly true. For one thing Norman observed after a practice round that he was used to such greens. He played on similar ones in Queensland. Faldo's only comment about the greens was that 'you have to trust the grain.'

The heat and humidity takes its toll but low scores are possible and Michael McLean came in yesterday with a new course record of 63. Unless it is beaten it will earn him a bonus of pounds 4,000. During his wonderful round, McLean remarked to his caddie, a Liverpudlian: 'I'm no Monty with the putter.' His caddie replied: 'I've seen worse strokes . . . in Bootle.'

Montgomerie bogeyed the first and failed to birdie the par five last and that made him even more hot and bothered. 'My putter let me down,' he said. 'I shouldn't be three shots behind.' The Scotsman missed a three-foot putt at the last and his sun visor preceded him into the recorder's tent by about 30 feet. If Norman was pessimistic, listen to Big Monty, who partnered Faldo in the third round and will play with him again today.

'He just doesn't stop, he's monotonous,' Montgomerie said of Faldo. 'I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Everything about him is so so professional. Instead of looking at him you've got to learn from him. He knows exactly what he's doing with it. He doesn't back down at all. If he putts well he wins tournaments. If he doesn't he might be in a play-off. I've got to learn from him . . . his mental attitude . . . his preparation. The way he's playing I'd have to break 60 to beat him.'

Faldo was so monotonous he had 16 birdie chances. He made four of them. At the outset he thought 12 under par would win it. 'I've still got to shoot a good score,' he said. Then, instead of retiring to an air-conditioned room for a cold beer, he picked up his towel and went out to the practice putting green.

JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC (Singapore) Leading second-round scores: (GB or Irl unless stated): 201 N Faldo 67 68 66. 204 C Montgomerie 68 67 69. 206 S Richardson 70 70 66. 207 G Norman (Aus) 71 68 68; B Ruangkit (Thai) 67 72 68; Choi Sang-ho (Kor) 69 67 71. 208 M McLean 76 69 63; F Couples (US) 73 65 70; E Els (SA) 71 65 72. 209 D Cooper 71 71 67; W Riley (Aus) 72 69 68; I Woosnam 71 69 69; R Davis (Aus) 70 69 70; P Senior (Aus) 67 71 71. 210 R Mackenzie (Chile) 69 73 68; M A Jimenez (Sp) 69 72 69; V Singh (Fiji) 72 69 69; T Hamilton (US) 69 72 69; F Minoza (Phi) 70 69 71; G Brand Jnr 72 67 71; S Torrance 73 64 73. 211 C Mason 71 74 66; D Clarke 67 78 66; R Allenby (Aus) 71 70 70; J Hawkes (SA) 68 71 72. 212 J Haeggman (Swe) 75 70 67; M Lanner (Swe) 73 71 68; R Willison 74 70 68; Chen Tze-Chung (Taiwan) 68 74 70; A Forsbrand (Swe) 71 70 71.

213 F Nobilo (NZ) 76 69 68; J McHenry 73 72 68; I Palmer (SA) 72 72 69; M Clayton (Aus) 72 72 69; P Baker 72 71 70; R Goosen (SA) 74 69 70; W Westner (SA) 71 70 72; B Lane 70 69 74.

The 53-year-old American, JoAnne Carner, hit a five-under par 66 for a share of the lead after the rain-swept first round of the Palm Beach Classic. Carner, the oldest player in the field, joined the Canadian, Jennifer Wyatt in the lead.