Golf: Koreans fall to slice of bad luck: Alfred Dunhill Cup

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THERE is a new name and a new format, but the Alfred Dunhill Cup has not lost its capacity to wrap itself in controversy. Two years ago, when the competition was content to exist without a Christian name, Japan had reason to grumble after losing a semi-final to England that 30 minutes earlier they had been celebrating as a victory. Yesterday it was the Koreans who were doing the muttering.

The grievance on this occasion was the disqualification of Park Nam-Sin, which altered a squared match into a 2-1 victory for Ireland. Instead of a play-off between Park and Christy O'Connor Jnr, the Koreans were met at the 18th with officialdom telling them that their game was up.

The problem arose at the 17th, the Road Hole. Park sliced his drive horribly and, as his ball disappeared towards the grounds of the Old Course Hotel, the natural assumption was that he had gone out of bounds. In this situation a golfer normally announces he is hitting a provisional ball and prays to his maker that a miracle has occurred that will allow him to continue with the orginal. On this occasion, while the great golfer in the sky got the message, there was a breakdown in earthly communications.

The Korean's caddie showed O'Connor the ball but neither he nor his employer mentioned the magic word 'provisional', so when Park arrived on the 17th fairway and found his prayers had been answered, he was in breach of the rules when he played his first ball and proceeded to finish four and three to tie O'Connor with a five-over-par 77. It was then that the tournament director, David Garland, brandished Rule 27 (2) and a disqualification.

O'Connor, embarrassed by his fortune, said: 'It is not a way you would choose to win a match. I felt quite upset. His drive at the 17th started off right and was going further right so it must have rebounded off the hotel on to the fairway. It makes it easier for me that there is 100 per cent agreement that he said nothing. He did not say 'provisional ball' or anything.'

Consequently the Irish slipped off with a win even though their combined score of 228, 12 over par, would have brought them defeat against all but three of the 16 nations here - and that was on a day when the cold, wet and windy conditions made birdie scores about as rare as sunbathers on the beach.

Only the Americans, 3-0 winners over New Zealand in the same round-robin group as the Irish, finished the better side of par while Thailand, wrapped in long johns and half a dozen layers to defeat the cold, ended up a colossal 31 over in a 3-0 defeat by South Africa.

The closest matches came in Group Two, where England v Japan and Spain v Italy were decided only by extra holes, both in favour of the seeded team. Such is the changing nature of golf that none of the players yesterday was involved in the last England-Japan meeting in 1990, but the Japanese were anxious to avenge a defeat that was decided with two play-offs even though Japan would have won 2-1 if the competition was run under Ryder Cup rules.

But the Japanese again had reason to rue extra-time when David Gilford hit a seven-iron to four inches to defeat Nobumitsu Yuhara with a birdie three in the decider, played over the 370-yard first. Earlier Steven Richardson had beaten Masahiro Kuramoto, while Jamie Spence had lost to Hiroshi Makino to make the play- off necessary.

The Scots, whose Colin Montgomerie and Sandy Lyle were so wrapped up when they arrived at the press conference that they looked like gold and silver medallists in the downhill skiing, gave reason to encourage hope that the home nation might win this event for the first time with a resounding 3-0 win over Canada. 'It was very encouraging,' Montgomerie said. 'To be one over in total on a day like this proves that we're all playing well. You need all three players to function to win here, you can't rely on just two.'

Lyle, whose 71 belied his description of his play as 'a struggle, not enjoyable', said the conditions yesterday were approaching the toughest he had ever known at St Andrews. 'It was so cold,' he said, 'it was virtually impossible to keep your hands warm. It was very hard to get any rhythm.'

It could be harder today. Snow is a possibility.

ALFRED DUNHILL CUP Today's tee-off times: Group Four: Australia v Thailand: 8.30 G Norman v B Ruangkit; 8.40 I Baker-Finch v S Sophon; 8.50 R Davis v T Wiratchant. South Africa v Germany: 9.00 J Bland v B Langer; 9.10 D Frost v T Giedeon; 9.20 E Els v H-P Thuel. Group Three: Scotland v France: 9.30 G Brand Jnr v M Farry; 9.40 C Montgomerie v T Levet; 9.50 S Lyle v J Van de Velde. Sweden v Canada: 10.0 R Karlsson v B Franklin; 10.10 A Forsbrand v R Zokol; 10.20 P-U Johansson v D Mijovic. Group Two: Spain v Japan: 10.30 M A Jimenez v N Yuhara; 10.40 J Rivero v H Makino; 10.50 J M Olazabal v M Kuramoto. England v Italy: 11.0 J Spence v C Rocca; 11.10 D Gilford v G Cali; 11.20 S Richardson v S Grappasonni. Group One: United States v Korea: 11.30 F Couples v Park Nam-Sin; 11.40 T Kite v Choi Sang-Ho; 11.50 D Love III v Cho Chul- Sang. Ireland v New Zealand: 12.0 R Rafferty v F Nobilo; 12.10 P Walton v G Waite; 12.20 C O'Connor Jnr v G Turner.

(Photograph omitted)

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