Golf: Faldo stung by failure with putter

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The Independent Online
ON US Open days of yesteryear like Thursday, when only nine players broke Olympic's severe par of 70, Nick Faldo was always among their number. Yet Faldo, a winner of three Opens and three Masters, started his second round only too aware that he was heading for his fourth missed cut in the last six major championships.

An opening round of 77 left Faldo 11 strokes behind the leader, Payne Stewart. His only hope of qualifying for the last 36 holes was for the second-round leader, or leaders, not to have got too far ahead and for him to stay within 10 shots. Being late for his tee time would not have been the way to start but he arrived with only seconds to spare after a protracted session on the putting green with his coach, David Leadbetter.

Faldo, 40, has not won a tournament for 15 months but his dilemma is worse than forgetting how to win. For all the quality work he does on the practice range, it is almost as if he has forgotten how to put together a round of golf. "My game is getting better," he said, "but my scoring isn't."

At the root of Faldo's problems is a loss of confidence on the greens and, looking like someone who has been trampled in the rush, he repeated a familiar theme: "I'm happy with everything but my putting.

"I only missed two fairways - I'm so close it's ridiculous. My only weakness is my putting."

The most exasperating example came at the 17th. A converted par five, where most players think of a four and a birdie, it measures 468 yards uphill to a tiny green. Few players managed to hold the green in two but a drive and a one-iron put Faldo within 15 feet of the cup before he three- putted. "A total waste," Faldo acknowledged. "As Elton says, you've got to bite your lip and get up and dance."

But Faldo has never found it easy to dance to new tunes, unlike Jesper Parnevik. The Swede will try anything. "Actually, I've been quite normal recently," he said. "I haven't been overdosing on volcanic sand." When Parnevik goes to the driving range, he is just trying to "find something I can play with for the day. I've been trying a low cut just to get the ball on the fairway."

Parnevik shot a 69 to lie one ahead of Colin Montgomerie but one behind the leading European, Jose Maria Olazabal. The Spaniard, returned to the way he was driving the ball when he won the Dubai Classic in March, almost matched Mark Carnevale's feat of not dropping a shot until he bogeyed the 17th. A curling, downhill putt from nine feet for birdie at the last gave him a 68, his best-ever score in the US Open.

In nine previous championship appearances, Olazabal has finished in the top 10 three times and missed the cut three times. Much depends on how he is driving the ball, but the number of long iron shots required at Olympic plays into the magical hands of the Spaniard.

"Even though the US Open does not suit my game," he said, "I like the challenge. To overcome a situation like this is a great feeling." Olazabal, during his foot problems a couple of years ago, once declined to use a buggy in an unofficial tournament.

Instead, Martin has made history by becoming the first player to use a cart in a major championship and given the attention, and not least the fact that he has never played in a regular tour event before, his 74, finishing in near darkness, was an impressive performance.

"The support I got from the fans out there was overwhelming," Martin, a 26-year-old qualifier, said. "I have to admit I was almost crying on the first tee when they gave me that ovation. It saddens me that I have to ride to play golf but at the same time I am grateful for it. I don't look at it like I'm making history, although I know I am."

Carnevale, whose 67 put him second only to Stewart, trained as a stockbroker but quit after one day before embarking on a journeyman career on and off the tour. His card yesterday was somewhat different to the day before as he had two bogeys and a double in a front-nine 39.

But his playing partner, Joe Durant, who leads the driving accuracy stats in his second year on the US Tour, went to the turn in level par to remain two under, where he was joined by the US Amateur champion Matt Kuchar with birdies at the seventh and eighth.

However, after an opening 80, it looked like Ken Peyre-Ferry, a club pro who qualified for the US Open for the first time in 30 years of trying, would make it to the church on time for his son's wedding back in New Jersey on the East Coast this afternoon.

COMPLETE FIRST-ROUND SCORES

66 P Stewart; 67 M Carnevale; 68 J Durant, T Lehman, JM Olazabal (Sp), B Tway; 69 J Daly, J Parnevik (Swe), J Maggert; 70 A Magee, C Montgomerie (GB), M O'Meara, *M Kuchar, T Kite, D Ogrin; 71 C Dimarco, C Rocca (It), L Roberts, J Leonard, P Mickelson, J Sindelar, P-U Johansson (Swe), B Geiberger; 72 S Pate, P Lee, J Sluman, F Couples, L Westwood (GB), I Woosnam (GB), S Simpson, S Jones, S McCarron, T Bjorn (Den), L Porter, E Romero (Arg), DA Weibring; 73 O Browne, G Day, S Appleby (Aus), F Lickliter, T Watson, P Harrington (Irl), K Triplett, L Janzen, S Cink, R Gehr, N Price (Zim), J Huston, V Singh (Fij), J Nicklaus, B Faxon, S Stricker, C Chernock, E Fryatt (GB), J Acosta; 74 W Wood, C Perry, S Hoch, J Furyk, T Woods, S Verplank, M Calcavecchia, T Oh, R Goosen (SA), B Zabriski, D Gilchrist, D Martin, D Pooley, D Clarke (GB), T Dodds (Nam), B Andrade, M Brisky, T Straub, J Johnson, C Martin, M Wilson; 75 P Parker, M Brooks, C Rose, D Duval, J Cook, P Azinger, T Sipula, F Zoeller, B Fabel, R Deruntz, E Els (SA), B Langer (Ger), G Marsh (Aus), T Herron, B Baird; 76 M Lonardi (Arg), J Green, P Stankowski, F Nobilo (NZ), P Moss, C Tidland, K Wentworth, M Small, B Chamblee, D Mast, J Allen, M Reid, C Pavin, I Garrido (Sp), *P Simson, J Haas, G March, G Fieger, *V Taylor; 77 G Waite (NZ), J Gore, G Boros, C Strange, G Hallberg, P Tataurangi (NZ), J Thorsen, R Walcher, C Kaufman, N Faldo (GB), K Sutherland, S Elkington (Aus), J Estes, S Bertsch; 78 D Hart, M Ozaki (Jap), D Love, C Beck, B Wetterich, O Uresti, G Clough (GB), D Kirkpatrick (GB), R Karlsson (Swe), *D Eger; 79 H Twitty, W Weston, T Sutter; 80 R Todd (Can), S Randolph, H Irwin, G Larson, A Morin, K Peyreferry; 81 P Jordan, B Crenshaw, M Burke; 82 *R Palmer, R Rangel, J McMillian; 83 *J Kribel, G Willis; 84 J Johnston, T Anderson; 85 A Stills; 86 R Ames; Retired T Tolles, D Hart

*denotes amateur player, US unless stated

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