Golf: Faldo's flashback to the birdie days

WHILE Lee Westwood continued to make healthy progress in the US Players' Championship, his Ryder Cup partner, Nick Faldo, missed an opportunity to move into contention. News of Faldo's early morning charge was relayed to the Westwood by his manager and the effect was dramatic.

Westwood scored a 68 to reach three under for the tournament, while Faldo, who had got to five under, dropped three shots in two holes on the back nine to drop off the leaderboard at two under. "It was nice to see my name up there again," Faldo, who returned a 70, said. "It has been so long I thought they had forgotten how to spell it."

Faldo's demise started at the par-three 13th, where he was short of the green and chipped too strongly. At the next he drove into a bunker, was short with his second and then duffed his chip and took three putts to get down. "It was all about those two chips," he said. "It was good for the first nine holes but they killed the momentum."

Having made the cut thanks to a 69 on Friday, his first score in the 60s for almost three months, Faldo was finally producing the golf he knew was inside him but had been unable to release all year.

After getting into the groove with his long game all he had to do was start holing a few putts and his first two of the day, from 12 feet at the first and 30 feet at the second, duly obliged.

Faldo had another great chance at the short third, but just missed from 15 feet but after driving into the rough at the fourth played his recovery to five feet for another birdie. His next, at the 381-yard sixth, was set up by an even better approach shot to three feet.

The other main incident of Faldo's round came at the short eighth when he was distracted on the tee by a spectator's camera click. "You're joking," was Faldo's response. "No cameras allowed. You'll be hung, drawn and quartered." Faldo backed off the shot, prepared again and then found the left-hand bunker.

As the spectator walked away from the tee, Faldo added: "I'm coming to get you. Keep walking." Faldo came out of the sand to 25 feet but could not save par before adding two more birdies at the 11th and 12th.

Only five of the original 12 Europeans in the field made the cut, with Westwood matching Faldo's effort on Friday afternoon in making sure he was around for the weekend. After an unfortunate start, when his drive at the first ran out of the fairway and he got a flier from the rough with his second, Westwood played the back nine in four under.

His only bad shot of the day came at the fifth when he missed the green on the left, but when he left a sand-wedge shot within inches of the flag at the ninth, it proved the first of three birdies in a row. He holed from eight feet at the 10th and got up and down from a bunker at the par- five 11th.

Chances came and went at the next three holes, but Westwood holed from 12 feet at the 15th and found the green with a four iron at the 497-yard 16th and two-putted for birdie. The tee shot at the 18th, where water runs all the way down the left-hand side, proved a scare when his ball kicked left but he remained on the fairway with four yards to spare.

"The same again tomorrow would be nice," Westwood, who was three under for the tournament, said. "I might have half a chance." By improving by three shots for the second day running, Westwood showed he is learning all the time. I am starting to get a feel for the course," said the 24- year-old who is playing in the tournament for the first time.

Lee Janzen, the 1995 Players champion, continued to share the lead after 45 holes. But while his co-leader overnight, Joe Ozaki, had fallen back, he was joined by Glen Day, the first round leader, who went to the turn in 33 with birdies at the first, fourth and sixth. Mark Calcavecchia moved to four under with a 68, while fellow Open champions Tom Lehman and Justin Leonard also moved into contention.