Golf: Fretes' error lets Scotland off the hook: Paraguay put hosts under pressure on opening day of Dunhill Cup but Coltart comes through while Norman revels in awkward conditions on Old Course

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The Independent Online
RAUL FRETES, one of the heroes of Paraguay's victory over Scotland in the Alfred Dunhill Cup here 12 months ago, got his fingers caught in the slingshot yesterday attempting another giant-killing act. A brave but foolhardy shot ended in the Swilcan Burn and Scotland escaped with a 2-1 win over the 100-1 outsiders.

Fretes, who defeated Colin Montgomerie last year, had the chance to beat Andrew Coltart in the crucial rubber. On a day when the wind gusted up to 50mph over the Old Course, Scotland were in trouble when Gordon Brand Jnr shot 79 and was beaten by five strokes by Angel Franco. With Montgomerie taking a point from Carlos Franco - 78 to 79 - the match came down to the contest between Fretes and Coltart.

The Paraguayan rallied over the back nine and came home in 36 to Coltart's 41 to draw level. After both had scored 78, they went down the first again in a sudden-death play- off. Coltart, making his debut in this tournament, cleared the burn with something to spare with his approach shot. The pin was near the burn and Fretes attempted a make-or-break shot. Another couple of inches and his ball would have landed near the flag. Instead it dropped back into the water and he had to take a penalty drop. Coltart, who left his first putt five feet short, made no mistake for his par four.

Golf has been played at St Andrews for nearly 600 years but it is doubtful the Old Course has seen so many bogeys and double-bogeys. The general consensus from the battered troops, who looked as if they were dressed for an Antarctic expedition, was that conditions were nigh on unplayable. The wind was so strong that there were several instances of the ball moving on the greens as players were in the process of placing a marker.

Nobody was under par but Greg Norman, Greg Turner and Darren Clarke managed to match it. Norman, out of the game for six weeks because of illness, said beforehand he would probably be the weak link in the Australian team but he drove them to a 2-1 win over France.

Four years ago, when conditions were somewhat kinder but the occasion altogether different, Norman shot 76 to Nick Faldo's 67 in the third round of the Open Championship here. Yesterday, when nearly everybody else choked on a Fisherman's Friend and cursed the south-westerly that blew their game over their heads, Norman took an almost perverse view.

'It was a lot of fun,' he said, in all seriousness. 'I quite enjoy playing in conditions like this. I had to play some shots that I haven't practised for five years. You had to go by feel. It certainly wasn't unplayable.' Norman had one of only two eagles recorded all day. At the 567- yard 14th, the longest hole, he hit a three-wood approach 263 yards to within 25 feet of the flag and rolled in the putt for a three.

'When I went out my aim was simply to win,' Norman said. 'If I'd shot 80 and won by one that would have been fine.' Tze-Chung Chen, of the Republic of China, went round in 83 and defeated Wayne Westner by a stroke. It was the highest winning score in the history of the competition. That result gave the Chinese (200-1 with the bookmakers) the lead over South Africa (5-1) but Ernie Els, 81 to Chang-Ting Yeh's 83, and David Frost, 76 to Tze-Ming Chen's 77, saved Goliath's blushes.

England, who beat Spain, were the only team to win 3-0 and that could influence qualification for the semi-finals on Sunday morning. Barry Lane had a reprieve when Jose Rivero, who led by a stroke going to the last, sliced his drive over Granny Clark's Wynd and his ball went out of bounds on to the road to the right of the fairway. It was last seen bouncing towards the St Andrews Woollen Mill.

Rivero took a six to Lane's four and lost 77 to 76. Philip Walton knows how the Spaniard feels. Ireland's match with New Zealand was all square and in the final leg Walton was two strokes ahead of Grant Waite with two holes to play. At the 17th, the infamous Road Hole, Walton was bunkered and took six to Waite's four, and at the last the Irishman, after failing at the first attempt to negotiate the Valley of Sin, missed an eight-foot putt. Walton took five, Waite four, Walton 81, Waite 80, New Zealand 2, Ireland 1.

(Photograph omitted)