Golf: Rose optimistic of his prospects

ALL AROUND the globe, England seemed to be enjoying a remarkable run of success. From Lee Westwood in Japan, to Nick Faldo and David Carter in the World Cup in New Zealand and Laura Davies at the LPGA Tour Championship in Las Vegas leaderboards have made good reading. But in the biggest gamble of them all, the European Tour's Qualifying School, this was not the case.

All eyes have been on Justin Rose but merely where players found themselves playing yesterday's third round was an indication of their fortunes.

Rose was at San Roque with the bottom half of the 181-man field. His 70 included four birdies but at five over par, he needs to break 70 today to make the 72-hole cut.

But he was optimistic. "That was much more like it," Rose said. "I kept smiling through and got a bit of confidence on the greens."

Down at Sotogrande, where the leaders were performing, Scotland's Ross Drummond, Francisco Valera and Emanuele Canonica, with a 65, topped the leaderboard at ten under. But Paul Way made a dreadful move and will set out today on the same score as Rose.

Three under for the tournament after eight holes, the Kent man dropped nine strokes in seven holes. His demise was witnessed at close hand by Gordon J Brand, who also appeared in the 1983 Ryder Cup and has seen it all before.

"That's the Qualifying School," Brand said. "This course is wide open and on a Sunday morning you wouldn't think twice about finding any trouble but here everyone seems to find it. You start getting tight and the older you are, the tighter you get."

Brand made his way round in 73 an at one under is on the same mark as another Ryder Cup player, Steve Richardson. Way, who birdied the 17th, shot a 79. When Way hit a five-iron to six inches at the eighth there was no inkling of what was about to happen.

An acorn in front of his ball in a bunker at the ninth cost a double- bogey and two drives into the water at the par-five 14th meant a triple- bogey eight. "I drove badly," Way said. "It took us three hours to play the front nine. We were waiting on every shot which didn't help. I need to play with rhythm - I lost it.''

There was a time when Michael Welch was the centre of attention but not any more. The 26-year-old from Shrewsbury scored a 71 at level par. Eight years ago Welch won 10 tournaments in a row, starting with the Shropshire County Boys and ending with the unique sequence of English, British, European and World Boys.

Welch spent four more years in the amateur ranks and has not made the impact that was expected of him as a professional. He spent one year on the main tour in 1996 but failed to return his card. "I had gone backwards by the time I turned pro," he said.

"I should have turned pro at 18 like Rose. He made the right decision because he had done everything in the amateur game and might have gone stale if he had delayed his decision by a couple of years. You just go through the motions. When you turn pro everything is a new challenge.

"Justin has proved he can do it at the highest level. Once he finds his feet he will be off and running. But what will be difficult is everyone reminding him of the Open. Even now people remind me of my run in 1990 but, without being rude, that was eight years ago and just isn't relevant."

Scores, Digest, page 28