GOLF: Faldo finds `solid' form

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The Independent Online


reports from Fort Lauderdale

Among the many things that Nick Faldo has been accused of in the past is treating the competitive rounds of these million-dollar tournaments in March as if they were little more than early practice rounds for the Masters. Last week's gritty win at Doral showed that Faldo intends to prepare for Augusta by spending as much time as possible in the heat of contention.

Playing in strong winds in yesterday's first round of the Honda Classic, Faldo shot a four-under-par 67 that put him just a stroke off the lead, held by the 1989 Open champion, Mark Calcavecchia. "After Sunday, all I wanted to do was get started again," Faldo said. "Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday took forever, but I've learned that you can win and then wear yourself out before the next tournament starts."

Faldo had five birdies and one bogey; the bogey was the result of his only mistake of the day, underclubbing his approach shot on the 13th. Four of the birdies came on the front nine, which Faldo had not seen this week. He played the back nine on Tuesday, but his afternoon pro-am round was blown away by a wind storm.

"I played very solidly," he said. "Ball striking was really good. I didn't miss a fairway, and just two greens, both on line, just short. Considering all the wind, that was really good."

Faldo was not the only European golfer playing well yesterday. Ian Woosnam was one stroke behind him at 68. Woosnam surprised himself by scoring well after a two and a half month break from golf. "I played fantastic, especially on the front nine," Woosnam said. "I hit every green, had a putt for birdie on every hole. I couldn't believe that I hadn't played for three months and hit every shot perfectly. I didn't want to spoil a good round, so I didn't play as aggressively on the back nine."

Seve Ballesteros had been tied with Woosnam at three under for 17 holes yesterday, but sent his second shot on the ninth hole, his 18th, into the water, and ended up with a double- bogey for a one-under-par round of 70. Ballesteros expressed his disappointment afterwards, saying that the three-iron into the water was his only bad stroke of the day.

HONDA CLASSIC (Weston Hills) Leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 66 M Calcavecchia; 67 N Faldo (Eng); 68 I Woosnam (Wal), M Wiebe, M Sullivan; 69 K Clearwater, S Rintoul (Aus), G Sauers; 70 S Ballesteros (Sp), G Day, R Freeman, P Mickelson, M Hulbert, D Forsman, L Mize, D Pooley, T Armour III; 71 D Feherty (N Irl), J Leonard, Y Mizumaki (Japan), C DiMarco, B Lietzke, M Carnevale, D Hart, M Donald, B Tway.