Golf: Faldo gets hooked at the last

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The Independent Online
IT COULD not last, of course. Tony Jacklin's revival had to end sometime, as did the dismal run of Peter Baker, but what happened to Nick Faldo almost defied belief. The world No 1 was lording it over the Duke's course in the second round of the Dunhill British Masters here until he came to the 18th tee. The 18th, a par five of 514 yards, is comparatively easy. Its stroke average in the first round was 4.53. It yielded 64 birdies, 48 pars, only three bogeys and two double-bogeys. Faldo took out his driver. He hooked his drive over the fence and out of bounds. Fanny Sunesson gave him a fresh Titleist out of the bag. Now he is playing three off the tee. The second time he hooked it even further over the fence. His caddie gave him another ball and now he is playing five off the tee. His third drive found the fairway, his sixth shot landed in a bunker in front of the green, his seventh came up short of the flag, his eighth was a putt that skirted the hole and he tapped in for a quadruple-bogey nine.

'I made a great start,' Faldo, the unhappy hooker, said, 'and I never lost it until the 18th.' He finished with a 73, coming home in 41. Faldo, who missed the cut last week, survived here but not by much.

Baker, on the other hand, opened up a useful lead with a round of 64 which equalled the course record. Considering he is only 25 Baker has been through quite an ordeal. In 1988 he won the Benson and Hedges International at Fulford, York, defeating Faldo in a play-off with an eagle. It prompted Faldo to remark: 'He's the sort of young guy we've been looking for.' We've been looking for Baker's name ever since.

He lost his swing and his confidence but denies that great expectations had anything to do with his decline. 'I didn't feel under pressure,' he said. 'I agreed with what Faldo said.' Baker said he lost his game four years ago when he began to think of making the 1989 Ryder Cup team. Several times he thought of packing it in, particularly after the Catalan Open that season. He went to Girona after a series of identical scores. He kept making 81. In the first round in Spain he went round in 81. 'I said to myself that whatever happened in the second round I would not make 81. I hit my ball up a tree at the third hole and walked off the course. I didn't make 81.'

Baker does not pretend that he is out of the woods yet although yesterday he was never in them. His round included two eagles, at the fourth and the 10th. Baker is a travelling companion of Ian Woosnam's which means he flies around Europe in the Welshman's private jet. Not, however, for much longer. 'My bottle's gone,' Baker said. 'I think it's claustrophobia.'

Jacklin, fortified by his 67 on Thursday, was mortified by a 76. He had 12 successive pars but took a triple-bogey eight at the 13th where he drove into a bush and had to play three off the tee. When he reached the green his Pong putter let him down and he had three putts. The cut was made at minus one and at least Jacklin survived to play the last two rounds after thinking he would have the weekend off.

Sandy Lyle was suffering from a strange affliction. He kept hitting the ball straight. He shot 65 to stand at nine under par. 'I've been working on a gimmick with a plastic bucket,' Lyle said. 'I put the bucket on the right hand side of the ball to make me come over the top of it more. The practice sessions have been going well but on the golf course I've been a different person.'