Golf: Trouble in school for errant Rose

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The Independent Online
TO LISTEN to Ken Rose, Justin's father, a career of stardom has already been mapped out for the 18-year-old from Hampshire via Johannesburg. There is one small problem - that of making the giant leap on to the European Tour - and it is one Rose has to attempt to make along with 180 others at the Qualifying School. After an opening 78, most of them were ahead of the young prodigy.

A strong poniente wind made the scoring harder at San Roque. The best effort was a 68, four under par, by Carlos Rodiles, from nearby Mijas, while, at Sotogrande, Francisco Valera and Johan Nystrom led on 66. Rose will have the chance to play at Sotogrande today and with the cut not being made until after Saturday's fourth round, his six-over-par score does not have to be terminal.

For that to be the case, and for Rose to break his duck in the birdie column, he will have to improve on his putting. On a positive note, his long game looked solid enough - it was his poor driving that characterised his performances on the tour after his Open spectacular - but the six bogeys were caused by three-putting five times and a duffed chip.

"The course isn't easy and I hit the ball reasonably well but three-putting is the worst," Rose said. "You feel you are just handing shots away unnecessarily. I need a calculator to work out how many putts I took."

His father will have been able to come to the rescue there since every stroke was marked down on a scorecard for later analysis. What would seem to be less helpful, however, was the high level of anxiety radiating from the huddle of father, mother and manager who followed Rose every step of the way. "This is a marathon," Rose added. "I'm not out of it, that's for sure."

His experience was not nearly as painful as that of Robert Coles, who struggled through the whiplash injuries he received in a car crash earlier in the week to match Rose's 78 at San Roque. At Sotogrande, though, Simon Hurley managed to be 10 shots better despite his only event in more than a year having been the pre-qualifier.

Hurley, a 34-year-old from Bristol, managed to win one of the sections at PQ2 despite the fact that his practising is restricted to chipping and putting and that he has undergone three operations on the damaged tendons and nerve in his elbow. Having won his card for the first time in 1996, Hurley received the injury when he hit a rock in his very first tour event. "I am fortunate to be here after being crippled for the last two years," Hurley said.

A vertebrae problem that required a fusion operation interrupted Mac O'Grady's career in 1987 when he had just won twice on the US Tour. The 47-year-old American, who scored a 75 at San Roque, is not quite sure what he is doing here except that he fancies "living in Paris and following in the footsteps of Van Gogh". "I am like a turtle who wants to go back to Galapagos," he added.

Not for nothing is O'Grady known as "Mad Mac". He spent years researching a neurobiological study of the golf swing and was last heard of as coach to Seve Ballesteros, or trying to get the Spaniard back to a "plateau of virtuosity", as O'Grady likes to put it. The relationship, like most of his teaching liaisons, ended acrimoniously and the two are not on speaking terms.

Conflict is the central theme of O'Grady's career. He accused the US Tour commissioner, Deane Beman, of theft when an unpaid fine was deducted from his prize-money, while he once tried to enter a pairs event with himself, playing left- and right-handed.

O'Grady still hits long shots right-handed and putts left-handed but took umbrage, sometimes legitimately and at other times not, to his playing partners and their caddies moving while he addressed the ball and standing in his line of vision.

Words were exchanged and O'Grady did not wait for his partners to putt out and shake their hands at the last, which rather undermined his protestation that he "was never rude". One of the other caddies was in no doubt. "That is the most disgusting behaviour I have ever seen," he said.

n Laura Davies hopes to keep an impressive record intact in the PageNet Tour Championship starting today at the Desert Inn, Las Vegas. It is six years since Britain's former world No 1 went a whole season on the American LPGA Tour without a victory - but she goes into the final event with a best this year of second in the Safeco Classic in September.