Golf: Orr is inspired by Seve

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The Independent Online
AFTER a day of rapidly fluctuating weather here yesterday, Gary Orr, last season's rookie of the year, leads the Benson and Hedges International going in to the last round. Seve Ballesteros, who was in front after the second round, is a stroke behind and Sam Torrance one behind him.

Orr, a Scotsman who will be 27 next Wednesday, has had three consecutive rounds of two-under-par 70 and he will be aiming for his maiden tour victory today. But he knows that most of the spectators will be rooting for the Spaniard. 'If I wasn't playing, I would be wanting Seve to win,' Orr said. 'But I've just got to go out and spoil the crowd's day.' For his part, Ballesteros is hoping that the tour officials will make his job easier by permitting preferred lies. 'Today I had to hit six shots with big pieces of mud on the ball,' he complained.

But the difficult conditions did not prevent the players producing a barrage of birdies, bogeys and other more exotic variations on par. Ballesteros had led by a shot after two rounds and he began the third as if he could somehow wrap up the victory with a day to spare.

At the first he rolled home a 40-footer, at the second a seven-footer, and at the third his ball disappeared into the hole from 30 feet, all for birdies. But Orr was inspired rather than intimidated by these exploits. After opening with a bogey, he ran off four consecutive birdies of his own from the second. Then Ballesteros hit two poor shots, missed a short putt to double- bogey the sixth, and hooked his drive into the hazard for a bogey on the seventh, putting Orr in the lead by two.

Ballesteros responded positively with a birdie from 15 feet at the eighth, and after he had another bogey at the 10th, he demonstrated his rediscovered resilience by hitting his tee shot to within five feet of the flag for a two at the 11th. When he bogeyed the 13th, it was no shock that he birdied the next from six feet. But a third penalty shot cost him another shot at the 17th and this time there was no birdie by return.

The putting pyrotechnics were not confined to Ballesteros and Orr. Phillip Price birdied four consecutive holes from the third, Jonathan Lomas had seven in the first 12 holes, and Torrance had three in the last six - including a holed bunker shot at the 13th and a five-iron to three feet at the last.

'If I can't win, I'd love Seve to win,' Torrance said, echoing Orr's sentiments. 'He's done so much for the game. He's a marvellous man.'

Ballesteros has not secured a tournament win for 26 months hence the great popular and professional support for him. An indication of the depths of his slump can be gauged by one statistic - in the 50 tournaments he has played since his victory in Majorca in March 1992, he has missed 17 cuts and only had four top-10 finishes. Despite all that, the pounds 108,330 winner's cheque for this tournament would propel Ballesteros from 164th to top of the Order of Merit, and thereby substantially boost his chances of receiving an invitation to next month's US Open.

The myriad of holed putts yesterday might suggest that those players who earlier in the week had alleged that the greens were too rough should be forced to eat their words. But there is no doubt that this rigorous 7,024-yard course has been made even more demanding by the spiteful weather that has beset the tournament.

Among other notable scores on a tempestuous day, both on the course and in the heavens, Rodger Davis, Darren Clarke and Alexander Cejka shared the lowest round of the week, all returning five under par 67s. Conversely, Des Smyth suffered a quadruple-bogey at the seventh, a triple-bogey at the 12th and then a double-bogey at the 16th. He finished with an 83.

Finally, there was a damp denouement to the round of Miguel Angel Jimenez. Two under for the day and playing the last, he hit three balls into the pond to the left of the green on the 472-yard par four and holed out for a 10. He then hit that ball into the pond, too. As he walked off disconsolately to sign for a 76, a little boy insensitively asked him for a ball.

'Sorry,' came the reply. 'They're all in the water.'

(Photograph omitted)

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