Golf: Faldo held at bay by the Blue Monster

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The Independent Online
WITH 40mph winds turning a couple of par-threes into driver holes, the Blue Monster surrendered very few low scores in the first round of the Doral Open yesterday. Nick Faldo was a stroke off the lead at two under par after 14 holes, but bogeyed three of his last four holes to finish with a one-over-par 73, which eventually left him five shots behind the scores of 68 recorded by Raymond Floyd and Jim Thorpe.

The way he ended his round understandably angered Faldo, who told off, in unprintable language, an intrusive television reporter looking for a comment on his play. Faldo's calmer evaluation was: 'I blew it. I let a good score slip. For the first day out, and in these conditions, it would have been great to post a good score.'

Faldo has played very few rounds of golf this year, missing the cut in Thailand a month ago and unable to practice much at home this winter. He hit just one drive in the pro- am on Wednesday before heavy rain and 50mph winds cancelled play.

In far better spirits were the two leaders, both veterans of the Tour. Floyd, 52, is a three-times champion here and lives not far from Doral, so this is one of the few stops he makes now on the regular Tour. His was by far the most impressive round played in the wind yesterday, a four-birdie, no-bogey 68 in which he missed 10 greens but holed every putt.

Floyd said: 'Though I didn't hit a lot of greens today, I drove well, and the key to the round was that when I missed, in most instances I was close. I was hitting very nice little chip-and-runs and pitches, and made all my little putts, and a couple not so little ones. If you mis-hit on a day like this the result is totally exaggerated.'

Proving Floyd right were the scores of several players not striking solidly, including Jack Nicklaus, who shot his second successive competitive round of 80, and the pre-tournament favourites, Fred Couples, who shot 74, and Davis Love III, who came in with a 75.

The other co-leader is Jim Thorpe, 45. Thorpe is here on a sponsor's invitation, having lost his playing card in recent years after injuring his wrist. After a career where his winnings tended to go toward the purchases of Corvettes and race horses, Thorpe has dedicated himself to a simpler life and a better golf game. 'Vijay Singh has been a very good friend of mine for 12 years, he's a workaholic, and now that he's playing over here his work ethic has rubbed off on me.'

DORAL-RYDER OPEN (Doral Country Club, Blue Course) Leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 68 R Floyd, J Thorpe. 69 D Mast. 70 B Bryant, D Edwards, J Huston, B Andrade. 71 G Norman (Aus), C Stadler, B Tway, M Sullivan, N Lancaster. 72 T Kite, K Green, D Toms, L Clements, G Sauers, B Chamblee, J Furyk, M Hulbert, D Peoples, T Purtzer, B Lohr. Selected: 73 N Faldo (Eng), J Parnevik (Swe).