Golf: Spaniards' rich vein

Click to follow
The Independent Online
APRIL in Paris and the dynamic duo, who have come hotfoot from Augusta, are living in the lap of luxury in a pounds 250-a-night hotel. The bill, naturally, is picked up by the sponsors. After wining and dining they are chauffeured to the chic course at Saint-Cloud and when they step on to the tee the cream of Parisian society parts before them as if they were royalty.

Yes, Dave Renwick and Billy Foster have never had it so good. In one stroke the status of the humble caddie has been upgraded. Renwick, a Scot, is the regular partner of the new Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and Foster, a Yorkshireman, carries the bag of Seve Ballesteros and, for the first time in the history of golf, the sponsors' largesse has been extended to the caddies. Just the two of them.

It has been thirsty work, too. Both their employers went the distance at Augusta National and have done so again here in the Tournoi Perrier de Paris, a revolutionary tournament (for pros at any rate) which consists of fourballs, foursomes, greensomes and then some.

Yesterday it was greensomes, a format familiar in the home counties on a Saturday morning. Both players drive, the best drive is chosen and then they hit alternate shots. On occasions, however, Olazabal and Ballesteros went against the grain. Sometimes they would elect to play the shorter tee shot but the most experienced and successful pairing in the history of the Ryder Cup went 14 holes yesterday before getting their first birdie.

Ballesteros holed from 15 feet for a three and Olazabal followed that with a birdie putt from seven feet for another birdie. They moved to 13 under par for the tournament with a birdie four at the penultimate hole and finished with another 67 for a three round total of 197.

The late flourish from the Spaniards kept them on the leaderboard but they are six strokes behind the Englishmen D J Russell and Peter Baker. In the first round, Russell and Baker compiled an extraordinary better ball score in the four ball of 58, 12 under par, and yesterday they progressed to 19 under with a 65. If Russell could hardly put a foot wrong in the first round - he needed a three at the last for a personal score of 59 - then Baker was the driving force in the third.

The main problem for Olazabal and Ballesteros has been to adjust to the speed of the rain-leaden greens after the Mach 2 of Augusta National and they admit it is unrealistic to make up six strokes in today's final round of fourballs. 'We'll be firing on all cylinders,' Olazabal said. 'As we were today,' Ballesteros replied.

As for Russell and Baker, travelling companions on the European Tour for eight years, they have never, officially, won anything together.