GOLF: Faldo makes light of the heavy going

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reports from Fort Lauderdale

Nick Faldo is playing very well right now, which was demonstrated yesterday when he faced the toughest conditions he has seen in months on a golf course and still managed to shoot a level par round of 71 and stay in contention. Faldo finished tied for fifth place with Seve Ballesteros, who shot a 68 in the same brutally windy afternoon conditions.

They were both five strokes behind Mark O'Meara, who had one of the day's earliest tee-off times, which allowed him to benefit from the calm morning conditions and shoot the day's low score of 65. O'Meara held a three-stroke advantage over his fellow Americans Andrew Magee and Blaine McCallister.

After his three birdie, three bogey round Faldo said: "I'm not disheartened. I played well - it was just the conditions that won out there today. That was one hell of a hard day. It was an effort even to bring the club back on some holes."

Ballesteros, who also noted the toughness of the conditions, had reason to be optimistic about the weekend. He said: "There were a lot of difficult holes, but I only made one bogey and had three good birdies on 11, 12 and 13. It's great to make the cut. My game is getting better and better every day."

Although Ballesteros's ball striking was sound in the wind, he was not able to sink any long putts. His only bogey came from a three-putt from 18 feet on the sixth hole, while all four of his birdies came from putts inside five feet.

The next European on the list was Ian Woosnam, who shot 72 in the windy afternoon. In his first start of the year, he had a troubling tendency to hook in the wind, but his short game came to his rescue. He said: "I'm very pleased to still be here. My objective was to play all four rounds, and I have already achieved that."

Jesper Parnevik was the only one of the seven Europeans in the field to miss the cut, by one stroke. Bernhard Langer was a stroke behind Woosnam, shooting a 71 to finish at one under par, while both Colin Montgomerie and David Feherty both made the cut on the nose, with Montgomerie shooting a sloppy 75 and Feherty going round in 73.

HONDA CLASSIC (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): Leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 133 M O'Meara 68 65. 136 B McCallister 70 66, A Magee 69 67. 137 M Standly 71 66. 138 M McCumber 71 67, N Faldo (GB) 67 71, S Ballesteros (Sp) 70 68. 139 B Claar 69 70, J McGovern 65 74, M Smith 72 67, D Martin 71 68, G Day 70 69, Y Mizumaki (Jpn) 71 68. 140 I Woosnam (GB) 68 72, D Hammond 71 69, J Gallagher Jnr 72 68, B Lohr 69 71, B Britton 71 69, M Dawson 69 71, L Rinker 68 72, R Freeman 70 70, D Hart 71 69. Selected: 141 B Langer (Ger) 70 71. 144 C Montgomerie (Sco ) 69 75, D Feherty (N Irl) 71 73. 145 J Parnevik (Swe) 72 73.