Golf: Olazabal in form for ultimate test: Spaniard on a roll in Louisiana as Torrance puts problems behind him

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The Independent Online
JOSE-MARIA OLAZABAL dominated the first round of the New Orleans Classic, shooting a nine-under-par, course-record 63. The only other golfer who came close early on was Sam Torrance, who shot a 30 on his inward half for a 67.

Last week at The Players' Championship, Olazabal had been very unhappy about the way he was striking his irons, but yesterday four of his nine birdies were tap-ins of less than two feet. 'It's not 100 per cent yet,' Olazabal said. 'But if I continue to hit the way I have today, then I'll be confident enough for the Masters.'

Olazabal's round yesterday was impressively solid, if aided by the soft and receptive greens of the English Turn course.

Torrance is in his third straight tournament, and on his third different continent, having finished 16th in Portugal, and sixth in Indonesia last week. He also arrived with his third malady of the year, a four-day-old toothache which was attended to here, having unwrapped the bandage on his foot last Saturday, and having suffered five cysts in his eyes several weeks earlier.

Torrance shot a 37 on the back nine, which he played first, then made six birdies on the front. 'I woke up,' was his explanation for the difference. 'This is a great prep for the Masters, the greens are pretty quick and pretty slopy. I've just played Augusta once before, in 1985, finished 31st, and have been desperate to get back there ever since.'

Nick Faldo was making little impact on the leaderboard: with three birdies and two bogeys he was one under par through 15 holes. Sandy Lyle was doing even worse, five over par with two to play, while Barry Lane finished with a disappointing 78.

NEW ORLEANS CLASSIC Early leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 63 J-M Olazabal (Sp). 67 S Torrance (Sco). 68 J Rassett. 69 K Perry, T Simpson, S Lamontagne, E Els (SA). 70 L Rinker, R Cochran, B Lohr. 71 L Wadkins, M Calcavecchia, G Sauers, G Kraft, B Kamm, R Boldt, E Kirby, C Kite, J Wilson, P Tataurangi (NZ), D Waldorf. 78 B Lane (Eng).

Gilford leads charge, page 33