Golf: Norman angered by slow play

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The Independent Online
GREG NORMAN launched an attack on tournament officials after one of the slowest rounds of his career at the Dutch Open in Noordwijk yesterday.

The Australian, who took a share of the lead, stepped exhausted off the course after an opening round lasting nearly six hours. 'I blame the officials, not the players. They can only go as fast as play allows,' he said. 'The officials should be in the position to know the times of the players going through. It didn't annoy me - I just found it inexcusable.

'If the first four or five games are taking five hours, then the rest of the field will as well. That's got to be the slowest round since I played in the World Cup at Palm Springs in 1976,' he added.

Norman put together a four-under-par 68 to tie with his playing partner, Bernard Langer of Germany, and the Britons, Roger Winchester and Mark Mouland.

Norman's powers of concentration were also stretched to the limit in warm conditions and amid constant noisy distractions from a Dutch crowd uneducated in the etiquette of golf spectating. One even followed him around the course waving a huge inflatable shark.

However, if the play was slow, Norman certainly began at a fast pace, gaining birdies on the first three holes.

He dropped a couple of shots to reach the turn in 34 but reached both the long par fives on the inward journey to pick up another two birdies.

Langer, like Norman, gathered six birdies in his round while Winchester attributed his recent improvement to a new, carefree attitude.

Mouland, the 1988 Dutch Open champion, compiled an impressive card of 14 pars and four birdies and admitted afterwards: 'I think I've been listening to too many teachers. I decided to do my own thing this time.'

Payne Stewart, the defending champion from the United States, opened with a three-under-par 69 and also tried hard to conceal his annoyance over the length of the round.

Britain's Neil Coles, who beat Arnold Palmer in the first final of the World Matchplay championship at Wentworth back in 1964, is one stroke ahead of his old American rival after the first round of the British Seniors Open at Royal Lytham yesterday. Coles, who scored a 69, had four birdies in five holes from the 10th to deny Palmer a share of the lead.