Golf: Seve may raise money supply: Price up with the pace as Spaniard gives himself a chance of a merit rise

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The Independent Online
SEVE BALLESTEROS, from Pedrena, and Phillip Price, from Pontypridd, shared the lead after the first round of the Benson and Hedges International Open here yesterday and it was the performance of the Spaniard rather than the Welshman that caught everybody by surprise. Price, after all, has been victorious this year; Ballesteros has not won since 1992.

On a cold, wet, miserable day - par for the course for St Mellion at this time of year - they were the only players to break 70. Only 12 of the field of 150 were below par. 'It's interesting,' Ballesteros said. 'People used to say to me I hope you win, Seve. Now they say I hope you make the cut.' On his only previous appearance here, in 1990, he shot 68 in the first round and finished joint 41st.

This time he has a greater incentive. Ballesteros, who began the week by resigning from the Ryder Cup committee, has waited in vain for an invitation for the US Open and the only way he can qualify is by finishing in the top two in the European Order of Merit at the end of the month. At the moment he is 164th with pounds 3,500 but the first prize here of pounds 108,330 would move him up 163 places.

In Majorca in March Ballesteros scored 78, 79 and his Yorkshire caddie Billy Foster urged him to walk off after 27 holes. 'I don't want to see you suffer,' Foster told him. 'We are professionals, we have to finish,' Ballesteros replied. The suffering was done by others yesterday as Ballesteros had five birdies and single-putted eight greens.

While Bernhard Langer was slipping the Green Jacket on to the shoulders of Jose-Maria Olazabal at Augusta National, Price was being honoured as 'Pontypridd Man of the Year'. Considering that Neil Jenkins, the Wales outside-half, is a Pontypridd man that was no small achievement. Price got the vote as the result of winning the Portuguese Open in March, his maiden Tour victory. In the world rankings it may not compare to winning the Masters but yesterday Price was seven strokes better than Olazabal.

The Spaniard played with Langer and Costantino Rocca and their combined total was eight over par. Price played with Stephen Ames and Gary Orr and they were seven under. Langer, one of six players on two under, did his best to lift Olazabal but it was hard work.

'He might be putting pressure on himself,' Langer said. He and Olazabal have the best record here. Olazabal won the Benson and Hedges when it moved to St Mellion in 1990 and was runner-up last year; Langer, third four years ago, won in 1991. Then the tournament was held two weeks earlier when the weather was even more unkind. Despite its later date most of the players think it is still too early. May day is the cry.

When Olazabal followed a double-bogey six at the 15th with a birdie at the 16th, Langer put an arm around him. 'Don't smile,' Langer sarcastically told the Spaniard, who had not acknowledged the applause. Olazabal, who missed a couple of putts from three feet, and Nick Faldo, who three-putted three times, led the criticism of the greens. 'The ball jumps about so much,' said Faldo, who missed from two feet at the ninth, his ball never touching the hole. 'It was a straight putt and the ball shot to the right.'

Langer, who once described St Mellion as a 'man's course', made two mistakes in what he described as a 'pretty good' round. He began at the 10th and his drive came to rest at the base of a tree. He had 190 yards to the green and, aiming 50 yards left of the target, he cut a three-iron to within 25 feet of the flag.

'For what he had to work with he's done a pretty good job,' Langer said of Jack Nicklaus's design. 'It's not easy to build a course on the side of a hill.' Nicklaus intended to play in this championship but decided that his game was not good enough. However, his son Gary accepted an invitation. He shot 83.

BENSON AND HEDGES INTERNATIONAL OPEN (St Mellion) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 69 P Price, S Ballesteros (Sp). 70 W Westner (SA), B Langer (Ger), H Clark, S Ames (Tri), G Orr, J Rivero (Sp). 71 R Chapman, R Goosen (SA), P Fowler (Aus), J Van de Velde (Fr). 72 P Walton, M Mouland, M James, D Smyth, J Bland (SA), P McGinley, M McLean, L Westwood, B Gallacher, S Struver (Ger), M Davis, P Mayo. 73 G J Brand, D W Basson (SA), D Curry, J Hobday (SA), M Mackenzie, N Henning (SA), M Roe, C Montgomerie, D Clarke, P Eales, D Ray, R Karlsson (Swe), P Hedblom (Swe), *B Dredge, F Lindgren (Swe). Selected: 75 N Faldo, S Torrance, S Lyle. 76 J-M Olazabal (Sp). * denotes amateur

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