Golf: Smyth takes shock lead

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IF YOU could stomach the sight of a young man refusing to accept 13,750 pints of Irish stout, the Murphy's English Open provided a highly watchable and eventful day of golf that sets up a final round today that can't fail to be riveting.

Ian Woosnam hasn't given up hope of holding on to the title he won last year - and he's seven shots behind the surprise leader, Des Smyth. They're the top and bottom of a pack that contains 17 players who'll be hoping to prise a winning score from a course that tripped up more than a few yesterday.

The 17 include the rookie professional Iain Pyman, who put himself into contention with a 67 after a hole-in-one at the 18th. Pyman, who needs to earn another pounds 10,000 to guarantee his Tour card next year, hit a four iron across the lake and into the 210-yard hole on its second bounce.

The ace won him a massive amount of the sponsor's brew. Pyman elected to take the cash instead, which netted him pounds 12,900. 'I'm not a great drinker,' he explained. If he insists on giving the stuff away, he never will be either.

There is no truth in the rumour that Woosnam bought it. He was too busy trying to hold down a score which threatened to fly away like a kite after a front nine in which his new- found swing developed steering trouble. He dropped two shots by the turn but then steadied up and parred his way to the last two holes, which he birdied to leave himself a glimmer.

The overnight leader, Barry Lane, soon lost it to the double onslaught of Smyth and Colin Montgomerie, but he recovered gamely and but for a double bogey at the short 15th, where he took a flier from a bunker, would have been closer. The other prongs of the English challenge today will be Gary Evans and Mark Davies. Evans shook off the effects of a double bogey at the first hole to bring home a 70 while Davis shot a 66, which was bettered on the day only by the 65 of South Africa's Retief Goosen.

But the day belonged to the Irishman Smyth, to his great surprise. He had been playing poorly for seven weeks, a spell that still manifested itself when he played in Wednesday's Pro- Am.

'I was in fear and trepidation when I went out to play on Tuesday. I didn't see a way I could make the cut. Then I had a 69. On Friday I decided to be aggressive and it wasn't going to last, at least I'd go out fighting,' he said.

Friday's 68 made him even more positive yesterday and he fired the ball at the pin with all the confidence in the world. He had three twos in his 66 but he could have done without the aberration he suffered on the par- five 17th.

He sent his third shot directly at the flag and it finished less than 10 feet past. He then watched Sweden's Pierre Fulke, who had a disappointing day, putt along the same line and send it six feet past. He knows now that he should have rolled the putt up to the hole. He charged it, went five feet past and missed the return.

Smyth retained enough aggression to blaze away at the pin on the last, land it within eight feet and sink the putt to finish at 13 under - two shots ahead of Montgomerie who was playing behind him. Smyth said that throughout the round he was conscious of how long and straight the Scot was hitting.

But Smyth wasn't watching when Montgomerie erred on the last. He made his only bogey of the day when he missed a short putt that left him very angry. 'I'm two behind when I should only be one. It was a silly mistake to make at the end of a very good round of golf.

'But I finished with a six in the first round and that fired me up for the second. I finished with a four today and that will fire me up for the last round,' he said.

'I am 103 under for European tournaments this year. If I can be 108 under after tomorrow, it should be enough,' he added. You can't beat fighting talk.