Golf: Lyle puts on the style for Scots

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The Independent Online
THE best laid plans . . . The decision to change the first stage of the Alfred Dunhill Cup from a knockout to a round-robin looked less inspired last night when yesterday's results contrived to leave three of the four groups virtually forgone conclusions. Scotland, Australia and the United States could miss out on semi-final places today but it would need some remarkable golf.

The original thinking behind three days of league matches was that the teams and the spectators would get more play. What was not on the agenda, however, was a set of results like yesterday's which have contrived to ensure three teams can afford to lose their third match and still get through.

The organisers had done their best by keeping the seeded teams apart until the final day but yesterday the underdog was snapping. Spain, Ireland, South Africa and the holders, Sweden, all succumbed to less highly ranked teams and almost certainly blew their chances of progressing.

Sweden's 3-0 defeat by Canada, for example, means they will need to defeat Scotland by large margins before the countback of strokes would go in their favour. Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie and Gordon Brand Jnr could afford to lose by four shots each and still go through and, although any local football supporter will tell you nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to Scotland and success, such a comprehensive calamity is unlikely.

The more so as the home trio are playing very well and after six rounds are just one over par in total, a remarkable figure considering the wind, rain and cold at St Andrews. Lyle, in particular, was impressive yesterday, keeping a bogey off his card in a two-under- par 70 that included a birdie putt from 30 yards at the 13th.

His captain Montgomerie said: 'It was a tremendous team performance and we've taken the pressure off ourselves for the Sweden match. We've got to play steadily but if we lose every game it doesn't matter. Keep it to 73 or 74 and we should make it through.'

Australia and the United States are similarly strongly placed although there is no guarantee the latter's match with Ireland will be low key, particularly after the Americans made less than complimentary comments about Christy O'Connor's and the Irish victory against Korea on Thursday. That was clinched when Park Nam-Sin, O'Connor's opponent, was disqualified for hitting the wrong ball on the 17th because he had failed to nominate his second drive as provisional. This was particularly tough on Park as he does not have enough English to order a cup of tea never mind negotiate the complexities of golf's rule-book.

'Christy could have clarified the position,' Davis Love III said. 'He should have asked if it was a provisional ball.' Fred Couples added: 'I don't think what Christy did was entirely kosher. If I'd done that I would have to think how I'd feel if it happened to me. It would be on my conscience.'

O'Connor countered with all guns blazing. 'I'm not surprised,' he said. 'It's the American way. They are just trying to annoy us. What are they suggesting? Do they want an open season where we just play golf and forget about the rules? Freddie (Couples) and I are good mates but if he raises the matter tomorrow I'll defend my actions to the hilt.'

That should ensure today's match is competitive, although the sequence of yesterday's results means that only Group Two is properly so. Even there England are the one team with maximum points and if they beat Spain today they are certain of progressing. Yesterday the English had a less than easy time against Italy, gaining what in the end was the crucial match in the 2-1 victory only when David Gilford birdied the 14th and 18th to put daylight between himself and Giuseppe Cali.

TODAY'S TEE-OFF TIMES: Group Four: Germany v Thailand: 8.30 T Giedeon v T Wiratchant; 8.40 B Langer v B Ruangkit; 8.50 H-P Thuel v S Sophon. Australia v South Africa: 9.00 I Baker- Finch v D Frost; 9.10 R Davis v J Bland; 9.20 G Norman v E Els. Group One: New Zealand v Korea: 9.30 F Nobilo v Choi Sang-Ho; 9.40 G Turner v Park Nam-Sin; 9.50 G Waite v Cho Chul-Sang. United States v Ireland: 10.00 F Couples v C O'Connor Jnr; 10.10 D Love III v P Walton; 10.20 T Kite v R Rafferty. Group Two: Japan v Italy: 10.30 H Makino v C Rocca; 10.40 M Kuramoto v G Cali; 10.50 N Yuhara v S Grappasonni. Spain v England: 11.00 J M Olazabal v J Spence; 11.10 M A Jimenez v S Richardson; 11.20 J Rivero v D Gilford. Group Three: Scotland v Sweden: 11.30 G Brand Jnr v R Karlsson; 11.40 C Montgomerie v P-U Johansson; 11.50 S Lyle v A Forsbrand. Canada v France: 12.00 D Mijovic v J Van de Velde; 12.10 B Franklin v M Farry; 12.20 R Zokol v T Levet.

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