Golf: Russell sets off on record birdie run

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The Independent Online
Mark Roe has long since left the Qualifying School far behind. Instead, he has been spending some time at the school of hard knocks, but an opening round of 65 in the One2One British Masters here at the Forest of Arden was a welcome return to form.

When play was suspended due to darkness, having earlier been delayed for three hours and five minutes by the morning fog, Roe led by one from Raymond Russell, who was six under for nine holes.

Russell, the former Walker Cup player, birdied the first eight holes - a feat he dismissed as "hitting a few wedges close and holing a few long putts" - before taking a double-bogey six at the ninth when he drove into a hazard. His run, one outside the world record, equalled the European mark.

"I wasn't thinking about any records," the Scot said. "I didn't know what it was. I was having a chat with my caddie about the football last night. I just hit a bad shot at the ninth. I hadn't got excited. Any time you have a double bogey you are disappointed."

Roe admitted to an odd feeling when he walked on to the eighth tee, but for a different reason. It was here three years ago, during the pro-am before the English Open, that the former three-time winner was struck on the forehead by a ball hit by a left-handed amateur on the second fairway.

"There is a fence along the tee, but it was big hook and came round the edge over the lake," Roe recalled. Roe lost consciousness briefly, went to hospital but tried to play the next day. He lasted nine holes.

"It's difficult when you can see four different balls, and orange spots and yellow stars," he said. "The gentleman wrote to me, a nice letter, saying he made a four on the hole and that he had a super day. I ceremoniously burned it. It took four months to get over the bad vision and headaches. Then I had a brain scan, which was clear - they couldn't find one."

At the time, Roe was lying fifth in the order of merit. He ended the season ninth, his best season, but fell to 126th the next year, during which he went through a divorce and contemplated suicide.

His life and golf game happily restored, he needed one thing to produce a low score: a few putts to drop. "You cannot compete if you do not convert your chances," he added.

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