GOLF: Faldo has high-flyer Haas in his sights

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reports from Augusta

Jose-Maria Olazabal, the defending champion, and Jack Nicklaus, the perennial champion, traded inaccurate blows in the second round of the Masters yesterday, attracting a huge gallery, but ahead of them it was the unsung Jay Haas who made the most positive move.

Haas, 41 from St Louis, shot 64 to go from one under par to nine under. John Huston had a 66 to stand at eight under par for the tournament alongside Scott Hoch. There was hyperbole with a capital H surrounding Haas, Huston and Hoch. Hoch was beaten in a play-off here by Nick Faldo in 1989 and is still living down the experience.

Faldo, following a second successive 70, is one of five Europeans at four under. "I can still win it," Faldo said. "Nothing's happened for me yet."

Haas, at the age of five, had a club put in his hands by Bob Goalby, a former Masters champion. Haas won a trophy in the first tournament he ever entered, the National Pee Wee championship. The Masters is slightly different.

Haas's 64 was one stroke off the course record and his finish was deadly. He birdied the last four holes. He has finished in the top 10 here on four occasions and last year was joint fifth. Huston also likes the course. He shot 66 in the first round in 1990 on his debut and finished joint third.

In the first round Olazabal, a veteran of eight Masters, had his best score here and his six-under-par 66 gave him a share of the lead with Phil Mickelson and David Frost. Olazabal would dearly love a second Green Jacket if, for no other reason, it would give the club an opportunity to get his name right. The label stitched above the inside pocket last year read "Olazabel".

The 29-year-old Spaniard, who played with the 19-year-old Tiger Woods on Thursday, was in the limelight again yesterday when he was paired with Nicklaus. The difference between Nicklaus and Woods, apart from the fact that one is white, the other black, one has been playing here since 1959, the other since Thursday, is that one of them hits the ball a phenomenal distance.

The Golden Bear, when he was a beefy cub, used to smash the ball a long way; Woods launches it even further. "I had to use binoculars to see how far the ball was going," Olazabal said. "Tiger has the potential to win here. He hits the ball very long and very high which are things that are very useful on this course. For a first-timer to score even par is not easy."

Woods, who will play in the United States Walker Cup team against GB and Ireland at Porthcawl in September, was as open-mouthed about Olazabal's short game as the Spaniard was about the American's long game. "He has a fantastic touch," Woods said. "His short game was unbelievable."

Olazabal could not reproduce the magic yesterday and neither could Nicklaus. The former had 74, the latter 78 and when they trooped off the 18th green they put a consoling arm around each other.

If a 66 in the first round from Olazabal was surprising - he missed the halfway cut in New Orleans last week and is limping around Augusta's green Axminster - the 67 from David Gilford had half of America thinking it had lost its sense of hearing. As a professional golfer he gives a decent impression of being a Tibetan monk. Conversation does not feature in his vocabulary.

Gilford, who looks after a small herd of Hereford cattle in Crewe, had, as one of the leaders, a leisurely lie-in yesterday and he missed all the excitement. The start was delayed by fog and when he arrived at the course he was bemused. "Has there been a delay?" Gilford whispered. He did not have the foggiest.

By mid-morning the sun had thrown off the blanket of fog and the azaleas and magnolias were once again exposed in their beds. The field was cut to the low 44 scores and ties, plus anyone within 10 strokes of the lead. Seve Ballesteros, who became the youngest Masters champion in 1980 and won it again three years later, was determined to keep Olazabal company here.

Ballesteros was languishing with a 75 from the first round but yesterday he moved back into credit with a 68, four under par for the round, one under for the tournament. He went to the turn in 33, seven shots better than his effort over the same holes on Thursday, and came back in 35. That included a double-bogey seven in the 13th where he compounded the mistake of landing in the creek by three-putting. However, he finished three, three, with birdies at the last two holes.

Last year he inspired Olazabal, leaving a note in his locker which reminded the younger Spaniard that he was the best player in the world. It is just conceivable that Olazabal will have to repay the compliment this weekend, although Ballesteros will have to go some today if he is to catch the leaders.

There were other notable performances from Bernhard Langer, and Colin Montgomerie who got to four under, five shots off the pace. Montgomerie had a 69 but three-putted the last for a bogey which soured his mood. "I'm bitterly disappointed," he said. "From tee to green I was terrific but my putting let me down." They were joined on four under by Gilford who had a 73. ian Woosnam is a stroke further back following a 72.

Sandy Lyle, the Master in 1988, missed the cut and was in bad company with Nick Price, the world No 1, and Ernie Els, the US Open champion.