Golf: James given comfort by late flourish

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The Independent Online
WHAT WOULD Ben Crenshaw, who today will probably name Tom Lehman and Fred Couples almost by default as his two wild-card selections, have given for a player in contention for the American Ryder Cup team to have shot a closing 67 in the 81st USPGA Championship here? Instead it was his opposite number, the European captain, Mark James.

After a 79 on Saturday, James had little chance of playing himself on to his own team and he finished at two over par, 13 strokes behind the joint third-round leaders, Tiger Woods and Mike Weir.

It was a putting tip from his wife, Jane, that sparked a pleasing final round from James. The Yorkshireman, however, is no longer contemplating giving up the captaincy and has until after this week's BMW International in Munich to decide on his wild cards.

As ever he was giving away few of his thoughts concerning the matter, but apart from seeing all those in contention for places making the cut at Medinah, the week's biggest plus was the performance of the 19-year- old Sergio Garcia. With a round to play, Garcia, the youngest player in the USPGA for 78 years, was tied for third with Stewart Cink, two strokes behind Woods and Weir.

Given that he only started earning Ryder Cup points when he turned professional in April, for Garcia to qualify in the top 10 would, James said, "be a tremendous performance. The guy has a huge talent and looks like being around for many years to come. The way he has played in the States is incredible."

The low amateur at Augusta, Garcia finished third on his pro debut on the US Tour at the Byron Nelson Classic. "For someone of his age to play tournaments so maturely is unusual," James added. "He thinks well, drives well, hits his irons well and has a good short game. Basically, I can't see any weaknesses. He is a 19-year-old going on 30."

Andrew Coltart, who had a 71 yesterday, was the likely victim of Garcia's success in being knocked out of the top 10 with a week to go. Jean Van de Velde, after a 70, and Robert Karlsson, 73, should maintain their positions in the automatic spots but Bernhard Langer will fall from 11th place after his 76.

"As a whole the guys have played reasonably well here," James said. "Garcia is the only one who has moved himself further forward but I would not take too much stock in just one tournament, even a major, rather than looking at performances over the season."

That could be good news for Jesper Parnevik, who now has to be picked as a wild card as the Swede is not going back to Munich, but bad news for Nick Faldo. Not beating the captain was also on the cards when he went in the water at the 2nd to be three over, but he then responded with three birdies in a row from the 5th.

Not a tournament seems to have gone by this season without Faldo saying that a renaissance is just around the corner. But his positive demeanour after a third-round 75 spoke volumes for his determination to continue representing Europe despite a record number of appearances in the match already.

"It's a big part of my life," Faldo said. "I've been there 11 times, so it has to be a major part of my career. I'd love to be there again. I don't think it's the last one here. I'm turning things around and I'll be ready for the next one in 2001."

After missing the cut at the Open, Faldo started working with a Swedish sports psychologist, Kjell Enhager. "The Open was a real low point but I have worked hard since then with Kjell. We've unravelled the knots and I am finding my form at the 11th hour. In a month's time I'll be playing really well.

"We've got a pretty young team of rookies and nobody has got more experience than I have," Faldo said. "I feel I'm a good team member and I feel I'm good on the course with a rookie. I've done a good job with the young guys, helping them to play their best."

For the second time during the week, Garcia went through a round without a bogey on Saturday, his 68 taking him to nine under. Even so, the Wonderkid did not like his position on the leaderboard during the round. "I always look at the leaderboards because I like to know how I'm doing.

"When I saw myself on the 9th and I was six under and, like, seventh or eighth, I thought, `Well, I have to do something here. I have to finish better than this'." He did, and punched the air when holing a birdie the 17th after cutting a four-iron in to 10 feet.

"I was thinking about playing with Tiger but I couldn't quite catch him," Garcia added. "We'll have to wait for another opportunity." Lee Westwood did play with Woods on Saturday and got caught up with the commotion of the American taking the lead in an attempt to win his first major since that record-breaking victory in the Masters two years ago.

Westwood's 74 left him seven off the lead. Loss of concentration led to three bogeys in four holes on the back nine and later he described the marshalling as "pathetic". Weir, a 29-year-old from Canada who lives in Salt Lake City, was looking forward to the experience again after being in the final group with Woods at the Western Open, also played in the Chicago area where his parents live.

"You have to use mental techniques to block out all the other things happening," Weir said. "You really have to focus on your own game."

USPGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Medinah) Leading final scores and totals (US unless stated): 290 M James (GB) 70 74 79 67. 291 T Lehman 70 74 76 71. 293 R Mediate 71 72 78 72, V Singh (Fiji) 74 70 77 72; 294 A Magee 72 72 77 73; 295 B Tway 73 71 80 71, P Stewart 75 71 75 74. 296 B Faxon 72 73 77 74, M Calcavecchia 71 75 76 74. 297 A Coltart (GB) 72 74 80 71; M Reid 72 74 76 75; 298 B Zabriski 70 75 77 76; 299 N Ozaki (Japan) 73 73 78 75; T Bjorn (Den) 73 73 78 75, R Beem 72 73 78 76; 300 F Funk 75 69 76 80.

COMPLETE THIRD-ROUND SCORES

(US unless stated; par 72)

205 T Woods 70 67 68, M Weir (Can) 68 68 69.

207 S Cink 69 70 68, S Garcia (Sp) 66 73 68.

210 N Price (Zim) 70 71 69, J Furyk 71 70 69, S Kendall 74 65 71, J Haas 68 67 75.

212 B Jobe 69 74 69, C Montgomerie (GB) 72 70 70, G Turner (NZ) 73 69 70, B Watts 69 71 72, L Westwood (GB) 70 68 74.

213 M Brooks 70 73 70, K Triplett 73 70 70, D Duval 70 71 72, B Estes 71 70 72.

214 J Kelly 69 74 71, P Goydos 73 70 71, C Pavin 69 74 71, C Perry 70 73 71, C Franco (Par) 72 71 71, K Wentworth 72 70 72.

215 D Waldorf 74 71 70, K Perry 74 69 72, G Hjertstedt (Swe) 72 70 73, J Parnevik (Swe) 72 70 73, S Pate 72 70 73, L Wadkins 72 69 74, MA Jimenez (Sp) 70 70 75.

216 S Flesch 73 71 72.

217 P Azinger 77 69 71, S Dunlap 74 72 71, P Lawrie (GB) 73 72 72, JL Lewis 73 70 74, D Frost (SA) 75 68 74, S Hoch 71 71 75, N Faldo (GB) 71 71 75, F Couples 73 69 75, H Irwin 70 69 78.

218 J Sluman 72 73 73, H Sutton 72 73 73, S Verplank 73 72 73, P Mickelson 72 72 74, D Love 71 72 75, J Sindelar 73 70 75, T Tryba 70 72 76.

219 M O'Meara 72 74 73, R Karlsson (Swe) 70 76 73, C DiMarco 74 71 74, O Browne 73 72 74, G Kraft 74 70 75, J Van de Velde (Fr) 74 70 75, B Mayfair 75 69 75, A Cejka (Ger) 71 73 75.

220 A Cabrera (Arg) 73 73 74, B Langer (Ger) 71 75 74, JP Hayes 68 76 76, T Lehman 70 74 76, F Funk 75 69 76.

221 P Stewart 75 71 75, V Singh (Fiji) 74 70 77, A Magee 72 72 77, R Mediate 71 72 78.

222 M Calcavecchia 71 75 76, M Reid 72 74 76, B Faxon 72 73 77, B Zabriski 70 75 77.

223 R Beem 72 73 78, M James (GB) 70 74 79.

224 N Ozaki (Japan) 73 73 78, T Bjorn (Den) 73 73 78, B Tway 73 71 80.

226 A Coltart (GB) 72 74 80.

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