Golf: Ruffled feathers for big birds up with the lark

Andy Farrell watches Bernhard Langer and Ernie Els struggle among the dew sweepers
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The Independent Online
There were some big names with some early alarm calls at Valhalla yesterday. Bernhard Langer was in the second group out at 7.39am, and Ernie Els followed nine minutes later. It is more usual at the US PGA to find some of the 25 club professionals, the make-weight equivalents of the amateurs and qualifiers at the other majors, out at this time.

Three made it through the half-way cut and one of them, John Reeves, was Langer's fellow dew-sweeper, along with their caddies and officials and a few Louisvillians who celebrated Russ Cochran's course record so heartily at the town's beer festival on Saturday evening that they decided to come right out to the golf.

Reeves, 34, is an assistant pro at Fairview Country Club, in Greenwich, Connecticut, and squeezed into the tournament by finishing 21st at the US Club Pros Championship last year. Had he been playing matchplay against Langer, who has made eight Ryder Cup appearances, he would have gone one-up with a birdie at the second. In fact, Reeves was one-up three times, but each time Langer squared the match.

The 16th was halved in bogeys, but Langer went in front with a par at the next and despite missing a short putt at the last, he closed out victory by one hole. More to the point, Langer shot a 72 to stay seven over, while Reeves's 74 left him nine behind a club pro, the 41-year-old Bob Boyd. Langer, who had a 78 on Saturday, said: "Three of the four days I played well, but didn't putt well. Yesterday I played rubbish."

Els had shot a third-round 79, which included 44 strokes on the front nine and a quadruple-bogey eight at the sixth hole. Having driven into the long Bluegrass rough off the hit, his second ended up almost unplayable in more rough by the green, from which he took six hacks, at various locations, to extract himself. Then he missed a putt from 10 feet and took a double- bogey seven at the next.

This followed a 68 on Friday which had got the South African champion to two under par, and a lesson from David Leadbetter on the practice range before teeing off. "I was hitting the ball so badly that David was just trying to help me get a swing thought going," Els said. "At the sixth, I made a bad swing and I got really angry. I should have chipped back to the fairway and I could have got out with a five. Without that eight I would still have been right in there."

At 26, Els should be right in the thick of things at major championships, and if he had not already got one under his belt, the 1994 US Open, he would know what Colin Montgomerie is going through right now. Last year at Riviera, Els let slip a three-shot lead going into the final round of the US PGA, and having done the hard work in getting within striking distance of Tom Lehman in the Open at Lytham he bogeyed two of the last three holes to lose by two.

"I have thought a lot about Lytham, and I feel I had a good week and finishing second after starting eight shots behind was good. But the finish was disappointing. I really thought I had a chance after birdieing the 15th." Yesterday, the finish was quite something; despite taking a six at the 16th, Els came home in 32 with a typically easy looking eagle at the last. The difference of a day was exactly 10 shots.