GOLF Orchard fruit finds no favour

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There are three guards at the entrance to the press tent, one of them armed with a pump action shotgun. They could be employed to deter the players from beating a path to our door with allegations that there is something rotten about the Orchard Golf andCountry Club.

The first round of the Johnnie Walker Classic yesterday amounted more to a killer in Manila than a thriller. "God", Ernie Els muttered to himself after a 78. He finished with a triple-bogey seven. Colin Montgomerie sat in the recorder's tent cradling hishead in his arms. Big Monty was exasperated, not so much with the course as his physical well-being.

"I sneezed and did something to my back," Montgomerie said. "It hurts to breathe." He admitted that the alternative to not breathing did not bear thinking about. Montgomerie had one birdie in a round of 73, one over par. Under the circumstances it was a respectable score.

Seve Ballesteros also had a 73, and although that too was not to be sneezed at, he was not a happy man. According to Ballesteros, The Legacy, Arnold Palmer's course here, is too tough. "There should be a little bit of rough," he said. "This is too severe. This is my first tournament of the year and I don't need this. It's like playing in the USPGA."

It is easy to whinge about a course when you score badly, but in fairness to Ballesteros he was speaking, at one over par, from a position of relative strength. Only 12 players out of over 140 managed to break par.

Mark Roe, who scored 78, gave The Legacy both barrels. "A disease of the modern game is that some people want to build courses that professionals can't get round in with a reasonable score. It's an amateur mentality. They seem to take pride in the fact the professional will struggle."

The Orchard has around 2,500 mango trees in a plot of nearly 1,000 acres. The clubhouse, more than a third of a mile long, looks bigger than Buckingham Palace. The idea is to build houses along the fairways and the plots are protected by 12 miles of white picket fences. There are signs saying: "No way out. It's better to lose a ball than break this fence. Do not attempt to cross here. Violators will be fined a minimum of 5,000 pesos (£125)."

More than 100,000 bags of white beach sand, shipped from an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, were needed to fill up the 127 bunkers on The Legacy. The trouble is it is the wrong sort of sand and most of the balls that land in a bunker are plugged.

Now the good news. Andrew Coltart, on the leaderboard at two under par, a position of positive luxury, said: "It's a fantastic layout. It's got everything. There's plenty of variety so it's really interesting. The only problem is that the greens are verydifficult. If your shot is downwind it's almost impossible to stop the ball."

Coltart and four others are one behind the leader, Mats Hallberg of Sweden, who is in splendid isolation on three under par. Nick Price is at one under, Greg Norman and Fred Couples level.