Golf: Faldo finds misfortune after bold beginning: Singh on song with course record as an Englishman abroad stumbles at the 15th in the US PGA Championship

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NICK FALDO shot a second successive 68 to remain on the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the 75th US PGA Championship at Inverness yesterday but he, and everybody else, was overshadowed by Vijay Singh. The 30-year-old Fijian lowered the course record with a 63 in the second round to stand at 11 under par. His two-round aggregate of 131 equals the previous lowest in PGA history.

Singh, who lives in London and is a member of the European Tour, leads by two from Lanny Wadkins, by three from Tom Watson, Scott Simpson, Loren Roberts and Dudley Hart and by five from Faldo, who was left to rue a disastrous triple-bogey seven on the 15th. Up to that point Faldo had been playing immaculately. 'Then I screwed up,' he said. 'All in all it's not too bad. I'm still in good shape for the weekend.'

Wadkins concurred. 'For 13 holes,' Wadkins said of Faldo, 'he played as well as any human being can. He'll be a major factor over the weekend.' Wadkins, however, had not seen Singh who had eight birdies, six of them over the back nine. He came home in 31. This is only his second US PGA Championship and 12 months ago he finished joint 48th. He has prospered in America this season and won his first US Tour event, the Buick Classic at Westchester, a few months ago. He was not aware of the course record until a caddie mentioned it on the 18th. Singh, who learnt to play the game when he caddied for his father, benefited here from a practice round with Jack Nicklaus on Wednesday. 'I learnt a lot about the course,' Singh said.

Faldo was making sweet progress until a gremlin got into his swing, and his drive at the 15th flew right and landed at the foot of a tree. He declared it unplayable and had to retreat 30 yards and take a penalty drop. He hacked it on to the fairway and was still short of the green with his fourth shot. Then he played a weak putt, left his ball three feet short of the hole and missed the putt. The seven knocked him from eight under par for the championship to five under but he responded with a birdie at the 16th. Faldo had begun by hitting his approach to within three feet at the first for a birdie; he had another at the fourth, where he made a 20-foot putt, and at the seventh hit his second shot to 18 inches. When he birdied the 11th and 13th he and Wadkins were level.

'He was playing so well,' Wadkins said, 'it was almost shocking to see him make a mistake.' Wadkins, who shot 68, won the US PGA Championship in 1977 and it remains his only major triumph. That year he and Watson made their debut in the Ryder Cup. Sixteen years on the two men, both 43, have the Ryder Cup on their minds again. Watson, who has won eight majors but never the US PGA, announces on Monday his team to play Europe next month. Watson is adamant that, even if he wins here, he will be a non-playing captain. Ten of his team qualify automatically and Watson has two selections.

Wadkins, by his performance here, is nudging Watson's elbow. Not only that but he's given Watson a putting tip. 'I'm trying to get on his good side, know what I mean,' Wadkins said. A glaring weakness in Watson's game has been a vulnerability over short putts and but for a couple that got away yesterday he too could have shot 63. In every other department he looks like the Watson who once dominated the game and his driving and iron play were hugely impressive. 'I haven't played this way in years,' Watson admitted. 'It's fun. Suffice to say I'm trying all I can to putt better.' He is using a putter that somebody gave him. 'I don't know who he is. I threw away his address. If I win I hope he contacts me.'

In ball-striking from tee to green Wadkins was not in Faldo's class but the Virginian putted exceptionally well, holing from 35, 12, eight and 25 feet for birdies at the 10th, 11th, 13th and 17th. Paul Azinger, who has qualified for the Ryder Cup, enjoyed an even more successful run over the inward nine with seven birdies. Azinger, whose 66 put him at seven under, said: 'It was there for the taking. The greens are slow by major standards.' He is of the view that Watson should choose himself. 'I played with him in a practice round on Wednesday and when we walked off the ninth green I was seven shots behind him,' Azinger said. 'He would be an asset to the team.'

Sandy Lyle, who was two under after the first round, made headway with birdies at the second, eighth and 12th but Anders Forsbrand and Mark James missed the cut.

US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Toledo, Ohio) First-round scores: (US unless stated): 64 S Simpson. 65 L Wadkins. 66 D Hart; R Zokol (Can). 67 M McCumber; B Lane (GB); D Forsman; E Romero (Arg); S Elkington (Aus); M Hulbert; P Mickelson; L Roberts; R Gamez. 68 G Sauers; H Irwin; J Huston; G Norman (Aus); D A Weibring; B Mayfair; N Faldo (GB); M Calcavecchia; V Singh (Fiji). 69 B Fleisher; P Senior (Aus); J Overton; A Lyle (GB); F Nobilo (NZ); H Sutton; B Estes; K Burton; J Haas; W Levi; R Cochran; T Watson; P Azinger. 70 B Boyd; T Smith; G Jones; G Hallberg; B Tway; B Crenshaw; G Twiggs; C Parry (Aus); B Faxon; R Davis (Aus); B Ford; R Fehr; J Sindelar; D Love; I Woosnam (GB); T Johnstone (Zim); R Mediate; F Couples; F Allem (SA); D Kestner; H Green. 71 W Frantz; A Forsbrand (Swe); H Twitty; L Janzen; R Floyd; P Stewart; J Daly; J McGovern; A Magee; B Claar; S Rachels; T Wargo; P Jacobsen; R Allenby (Aus); J Nicklaus; G Waite (NZ); K Krieger. 72 C Strange; F Zoeller; F Funk; J Adams; R Hoyt; B Borowicz; J Maggert; N Henke; M Standly; D Mast; B Bailey; J Cook. 73 D Rummells; T Kite; C Stadler; D Edwards; J M Olazabal (Sp); J Mahaffey; N Ozaki (Japan); C Peddicord; M Allen; D Quigley; J Edwards; D Hammond; S Pate; I Baker-Finch (Aus); C Beck; L Nelson; C Pavin. 74 C Starkjohann; T Lehman; B Andrade; C Montgomerie (GB); K Green; T Nakajima (Japan); J Delsing; S Hoch; S Ingraham; E Els (SA); N Price (Zim); M Springer; M Wiebe; B Lohr; R McDougal; J Lewis; M McNulty (Zim); J Sluman. 75 M Mielke; B Langer (Ger); J Gallagher Jnr; M James (GB); G Morgan; W Grady (Aus); M Brooks; L Mize; G Trivisonno; T Stafford. 76 B Sherfy; D Graham (Aus); G George; K Allard; G Robison; D Frost (SA). 77 A Palmer; B Ogle (Aus); B Lietzke; D Waldorf. 78 M O'Meara; C Coldwater; S Walter; K Clearwater (withdrew); G Groh. 79 J Nelson; T Joyce; J Godwin. 81 J Hoecker; J Fairfield; T Anglis.

Davies slowed; page 47

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