Golf: Ocean Course in the doldrums

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The Independent Online
Apart from the actual divots inflicted upon it by the players in the World Cup, the reputation of the Ocean Course has suffered a pretty big one this week. What happened to the fearsome beast which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1991?

Located right at the end of a long, thin peninsula south of Charleston, the course is more exposed than a troupe of male strippers indulging in the current passion for going the FM. Strong winds added to the severity of the design meant more than a few of the American and European players six years ago were glad they did not have to hand in a card. They would not have broken 80.

The fear was that some of those from the lesser ranked golfing nations might not break 90, but without any serious wind on the first two days there were only four scores in the 80s. Many more were in the 60s, led by Alex Cejka's new course record 63 on Thursday. By yesterday morning the course was so embarrassed by its modesty that it was shrouded in a blanket of fog which delayed the early stages of the third round.

Now eight years old, the course has settled into the sand dunes upon which it was placed by the noted designer Pete Dye. Softer and more forgiving, it is not the hard and fast surface that cannoned wayward balls into the dune weeds in its younger days. "I'm tickled to death about the scoring this week," said Dye. "No one wants to kill me."

As on a links, which it is not in the strict sense, the course was designed by Dye to shift in character with the wind. He blames the officials at the Ryder Cup for not taking account of a switch in the weather. "The day before, they were shooting 70s, 66, 68," he said. "Then the wind changed and it was like night and day. On 17 [the 195-yard par-three over water], they were hitting six, seven and eight-irons in practice, but during the match it was anything from a three-wood to a three-iron. It was like they had never seen the golf course. It was great in a way, but it was a disaster."

Colin Montgomerie reckoned he shot an 81 when he halved his singles match against Mark Calcavecchia. On Friday he scored a day's best 66, with an eagle and three birdies on the back nine, to take Scotland into the lead by two over Ireland and Sweden.

The art of the World Cup is how well the two team members combine together and Raymond Russell knows that he has just to avoid disaster in supporting the five-time European No 1. Russell double-bogeyed the second hole on Thursday but responded with five birdies in a row. Friday's 72 was, literally, par for the course.

Cejka, though, seems to have taken over from Bernhard Langer for Germany. While Cejka birdied the first two holes before the fog arrived to take himself to 15 under par, Sven Struver was making a negative contribution at one over. Four years ago, Langer won the individual title at 16 under. Had Struver managed four under, Germany would have tied the runaway leaders, the United States. He was 11 over.

The Irish duo of Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley have shared the workload equally, the former scoring 71, 67, the latter 66, 70. McGinley opened with a birdie to pick up another stroke, but the Scots were still waiting on the first tee when the fog descended. Montgomerie ordered a couple of pizzas to go, but they had just arrived when the players were ordered back to the clubhouse.

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