Golf: Lung infection may prevent Norman's conquest: Illness may foil Open champion's bid to overtake Faldo in world rankings as Price comes unstuck. Tim Glover reports from Phuket

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NICK FALDO, making his seasonal debut, thought that he would come under pressure this week from the in-form Greg Norman and Nick Price. For in-form read infirm. The Australian and the Zimbabwean are hors de combat and both withdrew from the pro-am which precedes the Johnnie Walker Classic here.

Norman, who complained of an allergy during the Desert Classic in Dubai last week, has been laid low in Thailand with a lung infection and Price has tendinitis in his left arm. Price, the leading money-winner on the US Tour last year, thinks it may have been caused by lifting luggage. Indirectly, the cause could be laid at Norman's door which currently has a do not disturb sign outside it.

Last October Norman sold his private jet to Price who, with family on board, set off from Zimbabwe for Thailand three days ago on a journey that would have taken them via the Seychelles and Sri Lanka. As it was they never left the runway. Two tyres blew on the attempted take-off and the Price family had to make an emergency exit from the jet, which was first registered in 1968.

'We were a bit shaken and the pilot did well to keep the plane under control,' Price said. 'It was full of fuel and you never know what can happen.' Thus Price was reunited with his luggage and had to take a commercial flight from Johannesburg.

When he woke up in Thailand he felt a twinge in his wrist and found it almost impossible to grip a club. He is taking anti-inflammatory tablets and receiving treatment from a physiotherapist. Price has played in two events this year, finishing second in the first and winning the ICL tournament in Pretoria two weeks ago.

Norman, the runner-up to Ernie Els in Dubai, is also popping pills - he has breathing problems and put his chances of playing at 50-50 - and Ian Woosnam was another in the wars. 'I woke up with a really bad back,' he said. 'It could have been the air conditioning. I need a massage.'

Woosnam played in Australia last week and missed the halfway cut by a huge margin. At least he played in the pro-am yesterday, going round the Blue Canyon Country Club in five sultry hours. 'I'm going through a bad spell,' Woosnam said. 'I'm just hitting and hoping. I don't feel in control.'

The pro-am featured a number of Asian celebrities, not to mention Jackie Stewart and Mark Phillips. The field for the pounds 600,000 Classic, which starts today, numbers players of 32 nationalities including a Chinaman, Zheng Wen-Jun. In 1987 Zheng, who is 28, won the China Open amateur championship, becoming the first player from the Chinese mainland to win an international compeition. He is based at the Chung Shan Hot Spring Golf Club in Zhong Shan, Guangdong Province.

Another amateur competing here is the American prodigy, Eldrick 'Tiger' Woods. The only child of a black father and a Thai mother, Tiger was hitting a golf ball before his first birthday. Woods, 18 from Orange County in California, won the USGA Junior Amateur match play championship three years ago and when he won it again 12 months later he became the first player to achieve such a feat. He plans to turn professional in 1998.

David Feherty has also made the journey to Thailand from America, where he has become a member of the US Tour. He has settled in Dallas and played in three tournaments, winning dollars 27,000 ( pounds 17,900). 'When they announce my name on the tee they say I'm from Dallas, Texas. I tell them I'm from Crawfordsburn, Northern Ireland but they won't have it because it's too long. Over there I want to finish leading Irishman every week.'

Blue Canyon is designed by the Japanese architect, Yoshikazu Kato, and has been built on the site of what was once a tin mine and a rubber plantation. The course, which was opened two years ago, is dotted with natural lakes and there are a number of extraordinary holes, the 14th being the most spectacular.

A par three, the tee is on a plateau and it is downhill all the way to a green in the middle of a lake. Faldo said it makes the infamous island par-three 17th at the TPC course in Sawgrass, Florida, look tame.

Yesterday Bernard Gallacher showed how to play the 14th. Using a seven-iron the Scotsman had a hole in one. Had he done so during the championship he would have won his weight in Black Label scotch, at 12st 7lb a drop in the ocean, at least compared to Johnnie Walker's market here. If you are wondering why the European Tour is holding an event on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean the answer is simple. The sponsor sells around 500,000 cases in Thailand every year.

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