Golf: Faldo sinks, Langer flies

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE GOOD news for Nick Faldo is that he made the halfway cut in the 57th Masters. The bad news, however, is really bad. For the second day running the Golden Bell, the notorious par-three 12th at the heart of the hellfire trinity of holes euphemistically called Amen Corner, tolled for Faldo. He needed wellingtons, not golf shoes. Bernhard Langer, on the other hand, gave the impression that he could walk on water.

Faldo, the winner at Augusta National in 1989 and 1990, did not have a prayer around Amen Corner. On every hole yesterday he was up Rae's Creek, a stream that meanders through this manicured masterpiece and places water on the contestant's brains.

Faldo learned early yesterday morning that he would be playing in Georgia rather than playing with Georgia, his new-born daughter. His challenge for the Masters found a watery grave at the 12th in the second round on Friday when he had a quadruple-bogey seven after putting his ball in the Creek from the tee and from the back bunker. He shot 76 to stand at three over par for the tournament. From the field of 90 players, the leading 44 plus ties plus anyone within 10 strokes of the leader survived the halfway cut.

Faldo was not amongst the 44 and, because of heavy rain during the second round on Friday evening which prevented 10 players, including most of the leaders, from completing their rounds until early yesterday, he was not sure whether to pack his bags or go to the practice ground. If one of the leaders had gone to eight under par Faldo would not have survived under the 10-shot concession.

Jeff Maggert, who completed the second round before the heavens opened, was the leader at seven under and those chasing him could not improve on that. Play was suspended on Friday when Jack Nicklaus stood over a 50-foot putt on the 14th hole. The winner of six Masters green jackets did not fancy that putt. He draped a towel over his shoulders and after talking to sympathetic officials he walked off the course.

Ahead of him others, including Ray Floyd and Langer, were content to carry on. Yesterday morning the 10 who had not finished on Friday resumed at 8.15am and Nicklaus must have wished that he had stroked that putt when he first had the chance. A little flag marked the spot where his ball had come to rest on Friday and yesterday, after spending what seemed an age in examining the line of the putt, he left his ball 20 feet short and missed the next one as well.

The 10 who had not completed the second round found no advantage yesterday and there were far more bogeys than birdies. Faldo shot 79 in the third round and on 226 was 10 over par for the tournament. He scored 71 and 76 in the first two rounds, and the weakest part of his game was, he maintained, his putting. 'I've been struggling on the greens,' he said, 'but I didn't know it was going to be this bad. It's disappointing . . . demoralising.'

David Leadbetter, his coach, said: 'You can have your engine tuned and it still breaks down from time to time. It's lack of confidence. He hasn't got the pace, the rhythm and he can't see the line. It's a passing thing.'

Faldo had four bogeys in the first seven holes and his cause was lost. In that disastrous 79 he had two birdies, at the ninth and 15th, and sandwiched in between was Amen Corner. At the 11th, where he twice won the Masters in sudden-death play-offs, defeating Scott Hoch and Floyd, he hit his approach shot into the water and took a double-bogey six. At the 12th he found the Creek again with his tee shot, took a penalty drop and this time had a bogey four. At the 13th he was again in the Creek.

Langer was one of the early birds, and he played two holes in par before starting the third round. On the most nerve-testing greens in the world, Langer, whose career has been blighted by attacks of the 'yips', was relatively confident. He won here in 1985, his only major victory, with a score of 282, six under par, and he may win here again with a better score than that. Langer had birdies at the second, seventh, eighth, 11th and 14th to move to 10 under par.

His closest challenger was Russ Cochran, but there was a considerable swing in the German's favour as they entered Amen Corner. Langer missed the green to the right at the 11th and chipped in for a birdie three. It was not dissimilar to the shot played by Larry Mize to win the Masters in a play-off in 1987. As Langer's ball was rolling towards the hole, Cochran, playing the 12th, missed a three-foot putt for birdie. It gave Langer a comfortable cushion, but the leader of the European Tour bible study class did not escape unscathed from Amen Corner. He three putted the 13th and had a bogey six, though he quickly recovered that shot on the next green.

Anders Forsbrand, the first Swede to play in the Masters, may be the last after his experience at the 13th. He hit his approach into the water and opted to play it from the Creek. While removing his shoe he leant on his club and was subsequently given a two-stroke penalty. Inadvertently he had breached the rule about grounding a club in a hazard. Forsbrand was fuming about the decision which cost him a seven instead of a five in a round of 75.

Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle, both former winners, shot 71s and both are on 215, one under par.