Golf: Nicklaus proves a stranger on familiar ground: Designer Jack fails to avoid pitfalls of his own making as Australia's Fowler shoots an eagle to take wing in Turespana Masters

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The Independent Online
JACK NICKLAUS managed to cut the red ribbon to open officially the Montecastillo golf resort here but yesterday he fell on the scissors. The Golden Bear, in his own lair, failed to make the half-way cut in the Turespana Masters, adding an eight-over-par 80 to a first round of 69. 'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I apologise for my play.'

Nicklaus, 54, designed the course and is giving his support to Montecastillo in its bid to stage the 1997 Ryder Cup. 'My score had nothing to do with my design,' he said. 'Where I hit it I deserved to be penalised.' He flew here with sons Gary and Jackie in his private jet, Air Bear, from Kent where he opened another of his creations, the London Club. Jack finished at five over par, Jackie seven over but Gary, level par for the tournament, survived to the third round, thus forcing his father to remain in Spain, at least until tomorrow evening.

'I played decently except for four holes,' Jack said. 'I might break my driver. . . over my head.' The four that hurt him were the second hole (double bogey five), the third (double bogey seven), the 10th (triple bogey seven) and the 15th (double bogey six). At the second he hit a three- iron through the back of the green into unplayable shrub and had to take a penalty drop. At the next he hit an 'horrendous tee shot' way left of the fairway, chopped it out and then hit a three-wood into a lake to the right of the green.

Even so, birdies at the seventh and ninth meant that he went to the turn in 38 and was still under par for the championship. At the 10th he hit rock bottom. He pulled his drive so far left it cleared the cart path and from a piece of waste land that resembled the surface of the moon he had three attempts at trying to extricate his ball, finally disfiguring it against a rock. 'Embarrassed? Sure but I was the one who put it there. The old Jack Nicklaus would never have hit it there. I just couldn't get it out. That's the problem with a new golf course. In time that land will be playable. Nobody else could have got it out of there.'

At the 15th his drive sailed right, found more rocks and he moved the ball a foot. He had another six on his card at the 16th where he took three putts from 12 feet. Nicklaus, the winner of 18 major titles, will play in the Open Championship at Turnberry in July - 'at least in the first two rounds'. He is also considering an offer to play in the Benson and Hedges International at St Mellion in Cornwall in May. That's another course he designed. 'If I keep playing like this I won't be playing anywhere,' he said.

On the 18th green Seve Ballesteros, one of his playing partners, put a consoling arm around Nicklaus's shoulders. 'I told him that we were very pleased he came over here and that we hoped to see him again,' Ballesteros said. 'It's too bad he didn't make it. He paid for four bad tee shots.' Ballesteros shot 71 to stand at three under par and although his dodgy back was fine he complained of a pain in his right wrist. He and Nicklaus had the worst of the conditions as a fierce wind buffeted the course on a cloudless, warm day.

The lead at the half-way stage was held by Peter Fowler of Australia at nine under par. He has a one stroke advantage over Jim Payne and two over the Spaniards, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Juan Quiros, and the Englishman, Carl Mason. The highlight of Fowler's round was an eagle three at the 16th where he hit a driver and a seven iron to 15 feet.

Quiros, 38 yesterday, has been consulting a psychiatrist. 'My attitude has completely changed on the course,' Quiros said. 'My concentration was very good.'

Olazabal, who gives the impression of being permanently under a black cloud, could do with a change of attitude. His body language was littered with expletives yet he went round in 68. 'Quality-wise,' Olazabal said,'my game is not good. It needs to be more natural and I would like the ball to go where I want it to go.' More often than not it went left but he managed to produce four birdies and whenever he was in trouble he saved par. His driving is vulnerable, but if he manages to get that right over the next two rounds he should be laughing.

Sandy Lyle, who partnered Olazabal, had a half decent round of 70 and made the cut, just. His work from the tee was impressive but he needs Olazabal's game to score effectively. What Olazabal needs is Lyle's temperament. The Scot may not be winning but ulcers are for others.

TURESPANA MASTERS (Montecastillo, Jerez) (GB or Irl unless stated): Leading second-round scores: 135 P Fowler (Aus) 67 68. 136 J Payne 67 69. 137 J Quiros (Sp) 67 70; C Mason 67 70; J M Olazabal (Sp) 69 68. 138 J M Canizares (Sp) 69 69; M Sunesson (Swe) 70 68; R McFarlane 68 70; R Drummond 69 69. 139 K Eriksson (Swe) 69 70; P Bates (US) 71 68. 140 I Garrido (Sp) 73 67; P Price 70 70; P Eales 72 68; G Brand Jnr 71 69; P Curry 69 71; A Hunter 69 71; I Palmer (SA) 69 71. 141 P-U Johansson (Swe) 69 72; G Turner (NZ) 68 73; M McLean 74 67; M Gates 70 71; P Lawrie 71 70; D R Jones 75 66; G Manson 71 70; J Townsend (US) 67 74; D Ray 68 73; S Watson 72 69; S Ballesteros (Sp) 70 71; F Nobilo (NZ) 68 73.