Golf / US Open Championship: Faldo falls back as Watson finds form: 'Cheesed-off' Woosnam scuppered by unplayable lie at the last as Lane makes a splash in his first US Open Championship

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The Independent Online
TIME was when no spectator, cowering behind the ropes, was safe when Sandy Lyle stood on the tee. In his more wayward days, like the last four years, there was enough bloodletting to satisfy viewers of Casualty. Lyle has been particularly accurate at Augusta where he once managed to dispatch two fans to hospital after they had been poleaxed by the Scotsman's ball. Yesterday it was Nick Faldo's turn to offer condolences.

Faldo was within striking distance of the leaders in the 93rd US Open Championship at Baltusrol until he struck a spectator. In a way his behaviour following the incident at the sixth hole endeared him to the crowd. The world No 1 hit a good drive and, faced with about 200 yards to the flag, inexplicably cut a fairway wood to the right of the green. His ball hit an elderly gentleman flush on the head.

By the time Faldo arrived on the scene the casualty was being tended on a buggy by a medical team. Faldo shook the man's hand and said: 'Sorry about that. It was a hacker's slice.' The crowd burst into applause. There was no cheering, however, when Faldo walked off the green nursing a triple-bogey seven.

After his ball came to rest via the New Yorker's head he was faced with a devilish shot. He was only about 20 yards from the flag but in between him and the hole was a bunker and the overhanging branches of a tree. He could not run it low and he could not play it high. He attempted to do the latter but his ball hit a branch and came down short of the bunker. It travelled no more than five yards and then he chipped into the sand. Distracted by the movement of a spectator, he played a poor bunker shot and two putts later he recorded a grotesque seven on his card.

The temperature was in the nineties and by the 12th Faldo was sweating even more when he was told by officials to speed up his play. In the first round Faldo scored a level-par 70, four strokes off the lead, and it consisted of 16 pars, one bogey and one birdie. Yesterday he had five successive pars until he was at sixes and sevens. The sixth hole put him at three over par and although he birdied the eighth he bogeyed the 10th.

Faldo was 10 strokes behind Lee Janzen and eight strokes behind Payne Stewart and Tom Watson, the US Ryder Cup captain. Faldo finished with a 74, four over for the day and the championship. 'I'm stuffing myself,' an exasperated Faldo said. 'Four under will win this thing and it's a crying shame that I can't get things going. My swing ain't good enough.'

Faldo was looking to make an eagle three at the 18th and he took a bogey six. 'That,' he said, 'was a classic example of what's happening to me.'

If the 43-year old Watson keeps this up he has a serious chance of becoming America's playing captain in the Ryder Cup match against Europe at The Belfry in September. He went to the turn at one under and came home in style with birdies at the 14th, 16th and 18th. Watson shot 66 for an aggregate of 136, four under par.

Ian Woosnam, like Lyle and Faldo on level par after the first day, found it heavy going in the second round. However, he was heartened by a birdie at the 13th where he put his approach to within two feet of the hole, but he came to grief at the 18th. He clattered into the trees and had to take a drop under penalty because of an unplayable lie. At a hole where he would be looking for a birdie four he recorded a double-bogey seven in a round of 74. That put him at four over for the championship. Woosnam cleared his locker. 'I don't really care what I'm doing,' he said. 'I'm cheesed off. The heat got to me.'

Barry Lane, making his debut in the US Open, had a 68, which included four birdies. His driving was impressively long and his putting was much better than on the first day.

Bernhard Langer finished with two birdies in a round of 71 which left him at 145. five over par. Langer still has a pain in the neck, which is severely restricted his backswing.

The leading 60 players, plus ties, and anyone within 10 strokes of the lead survived the cut. Faldo, Woosnam and Lyle were put in danger by the performance of Janzen. Janzen, who seems certain to make his debut in the US Ryder Cup team this year, started the day at three under par and advanced to six under, with birdies at the 11th, 12th and 13th. Janzen, a 28-year-old from Kissimmee, Florida, had a glorious chance of knocking out Faldo, Woosnam and Lyle, but he failed to birdie either of the closing par fives. Had he done so, and moved to seven under, the British trio would have missed the cut. Even so Janzen's second successive 67 equalled the 36-hole US Open record of 134 which was set by Jack Nicklaus at Baltusrol in 1980. Nicklaus, incidentally, shot 72 yesterday and the Golden Bear is not yet out of the hunt.

However, Langer missed the cut by one stroke and other European casualties were Seve Ballesteros, who was eight over par for the tournament following a 72, Jose Maria Olazabal, also eight over, and Anders Forsbrand and David Gilford. Both Forsbrand and Gilford finished at nine over par. Another who missed out was Tom Kite, the defending champion.

With the exception of the Zimbabwean, Price, who won the US PGA Championship last year, it was an all-American leaderboard. Watson, Stewart and Price all returned 66s.

Colin Montgomerie stood at 143, three over par after an exhausting 72 yesterday. Big Monty, like Lane, survived the half-way cut, although he very nearly did not survive the round. 'At one point I thought I was going to pass out, ' Montgomerie said. 'I felt like packing it in. On some holes the temperature reached 100 degrees.' Montgomerie said he was retiring to a cool, darkened room, accompanied by a handful of Anadin.

(Photograph omitted)

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