Golf: O'Connor samples the high life: Last year's Dunhill Masters champion tastes fruits of his success

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THERE ARE many people here who would like to be in the shoes, sponsored, of course, of Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer. This week Faldo and Langer, the world No 1 and No 2, would probably like to be in the shoes of Christy O'Connor Jnr.

An idiosyncratic perk of winning the Dunhill British Masters at Woburn is that the champion gets to enjoy an aristocratic lifestyle. O'Connor Jnr proved 12 months ago that anything is possible when he survived an air crash and went on to produce birdies out of the trees. He finished with two rounds of 66, single-putted the last eight greens and won in a play-off.

Apart from winning pounds 100,000, the Irishman received an invitation from the Marquess and Marchioness of Tavistock to spend this week, as defending champion, as their guest at Woburn Abbey. 'It took me two and a half hours to find my wife in the bedroom last night,' O'Connor Jnr said.

The 44-year-old talked about racing and the bloodstock industry with the blue bloods and tipped them the winner of the Derby. The Ryder Cup is also on his mind. It was at The Belfry in 1989 that he hit his celebrated two- iron over the water to within a few feet of the flag to defeat Fred Couples in the singles. 'The Ryder Cup is always in the back of your mind,' O'Connor Jnr said. It will remain at the back unless his form improves dramatically. He is spending more time designing courses - he has nine on the go - than playing on them.

Jamie Spence, sixth in the Johnnie Walker Ryder Cup rankings, withdrew from the Dunhill yesterday after retiring from the Volvo PGA at Wentworth. He is suffering from a virus and has missed four events.

Should Langer win here he would emulate the treble of Masters, Volvo PGA and Dunhill Masters that Faldo achieved in 1989. Whereas Langer is at present the commander-in-chief, having won comfortably at Wentworth on Monday, Faldo suffered the rare embarrassment of missing the half-way cut. 'It was weird,' he said. 'It dents you for a while and you have to start piecing it all together again.' Even more weird is that Faldo starts a tournament in England not as favourite - William Hill make Langer 6-1 - but as second favourite. Faldo went fishing with his son Matthew on Monday and had time to reflect. 'You have to sit down and work out what you are going to do,' Faldo said.

Seve Ballesteros, who also missed the cut at Wentworth, and Ian Woosnam are not playing at Woburn. Neither of them come cheap and Dunhill decided they had already spent enough on Langer and Faldo.

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