Golf: Faldo's one flaw in perfect round: European Open / Ballesteros misses the cut as Karlsson is chased by the Open champion

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WHEN Seve Ballesteros teed off in the second round of the European Open here yesterday, Nick Faldo was playing the 17th. Ballesteros's eyes were drawn to the scoreboard which showed that Faldo was leading the championship at nine under par. In the good old days the Spaniard would have seen his name at the top of the leaderboard.

Now he is struggling, making more bogeys than birdies. Half-way through his round yesterday he had another look at the scoreboard, this time an anxious glance to check whether he would make the cut. He did not. He had a 73 that included six bogeys and his left shoulder was giving him pain. It was the third time he has failed to go the distance in his last four tournaments but today's premature homecoming has its compensations. He will see his son, born last Thursday, for the first time.

It was a pleasant enough day - mainly sunshine, a healthy breeze and the odd shower - but for the most part Sunningdale's Old Course, modest in length at 6,607 yards, stubbornly defended its par of 70.

Faldo, the course record-holder here with 62, went to the turn in 31 and when he had his fifth and sixth birdies at the 14th and 16th he was on course for a 64. As Ballesteros set off down the first fairway, his gallery insignificant compared to the numbers following Faldo, he had his first sneeze of the day and reached for a handkerchief that has a permanent place in his pocket. At the same time Faldo was catching a cold at the 17th.

The Open champion, who played the 16th beautifully, drawing a five- iron to eight feet from the flag, hit a three-wood too far right off the 17th tee. The ball came to rest on a mound and he could only chip out sideways. Then he hit a six-iron into a bunker. From sand to green, two putts and a double bogey six. Oops. In the first round Faldo finished birdie, birdie, birdie. Now, by his standards, he was suddenly ragged. From the rough at the 18th into a bunker left of the green. A putt from around 10 feet to save par after he had backed off it, the movement of a cameraman's finger being sufficient to disturb his concentration.

Faldo shot 66 to stand at seven under par for the championship, two strokes behind Robert Karlsson and one behind Mark James. Was he happy? You must be joking. 'It was a shame,' he said. 'I played really well. I paid for one bad shot.'

Karlsson, fifth behind Faldo in the Open at Muirfield, shot 67 which was about a million miles removed from the 67 scored by Jose- Maria Olazabal. 'It was tough out there,' Olazabal said, 'especially when you are hitting the ball like me. Sideways.'

Not the 6ft 5in Karlsson. He is one of the crop of prize Swedes who seem to appear on the leaderboard at every tournament. They work as a team and although not one of them has yet to break into the Ryder Cup 12, it is possible they could be mob handed for the match against the United States at The Belfry next September.

Karlsson led the Moroccan Open until the 72nd hole. 'I have not been in such a position with names like Faldo up there,' he said. 'I'll try not to think about it.' Faldo, Karlsson revealed, is one of the few players on tour he has never exchanged a word with. 'I've never said hello to him.' Why? 'He's never said hello to me.'

James, a keen gardener, is even keener to play in his sixth Ryder Cup. 'It's good to have something definite to aim at like that,' James said. So far it is turnips 5, Swedes 0 and the horticulturist from Leeds will partner Karlsson in the third round today. Bernard Gallacher, the 43-year-old Ryder Cup captain, will have a ringside view of the contenders after a 66 yesterday. 'It's the best I've played since the French Open a couple of years ago,' Gallacher said. 'It's the same old clubs, they're just behaving better. One of the worst things about tournament golf is playing one week on and one week off. It feels like a new season every time you tee off. When I'm in the mood I can be quite competitive.' The mood has not hit him very often this season. Gallacher is 174th in the Order of Merit with pounds 8,405.

GA EUROPEAN OPEN (Sunningdale) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 131 R Karlsson (Swe) 64 67. 132 M James 64 68. 133 N Faldo 67 66; M Lanner (Swe) 65 68. 134 J Hawkes (SA) 66 68; B Lane 66 68. 136 M Farry (Fr) 71 65; J Spence 69 67; B Gallacher 70 66; S Luna (Sp) 67 69; F Nobilo (NZ) 64 72. 137 J-M Olazabal (Sp) 70 67; P Broadhurst 71 66; I Palmer (SA) 63 74; P Walton 66 71; J Rivero (Sp) 68 69; M Moreno (Sp) 68 69. 138 A Binaghi (It) 69 69; R Claydon 67 71; D Gilford 68 70; T Johnstone (Zim) 69 69; P Way 66 72. 139 P O'Malley (Aus) 66 73; V Singh (Fiji) 71 68; J Townsend (US) 71 68; M Piltz (Fin) 71 68; R Winchester 67 72; S Richardson 68 71; P Curry 69 70; J Van de Velde (Fr) 70 69; J Bland (SA) 69 70; R Davis (Aus) 70 69. 140 J Quiros (Sp) 70 70; C Montgomerie 68 72; M Harwood (Aus) 71 69; G Day (US) 71 69; R Rafferty 71 69; B Malley (US) 67 73; D R Jones 69 71; R Chapman 70 70; M Mackenzie 70 70; E Els (SA) 71 69; P Fowler (Aus) 71 69; P Baker 70 70; R Willison 70 70; M Mouland 72 68; S McAllister 71 69; S Field 70 70. 141 W Riley (Aus) 69 72; C O'Connor Jnr 74 67; D J Russell 73 68; J Payne 68 73; S Lyle 71 70; P Senior (Aus) 69 72; H P Thuel (Ger) 68 73; D Smyth 72 69; J Sewell 70 71; A Sorensen (Den) 71 70; V Fernandez (Arg) 72 69; M Roe 70 71; C Moody 69 72; M Pinero (Sp) 68 73; M Clayton (Aus) 69 72. Selected: 143 S Ballesteros (Sp) 70 73.

(Photograph omitted)