Golf: US Open: Faldo defeated by greens

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The Independent Online
It is not often that Nick Faldo holds his hands up and admits defeat, but the Monster has got to him. Referring to the greens, Faldo said: "It's a terror. I'm worn out. I don't feel like working." In a major championship, few causes are lost before a ball is struck in the final round, but at five over par, seven strokes off the lead, Faldo could not see himself winning his first US Open.

In the Masters at Augusta National in April, Faldo turned a six-stroke deficit into a five-shot victory over Greg Norman, but a double-bogey six here on the 18th in the third round stopped him in his tracks. "A birdie would have been nice, but the double bogey might have done me in."

Describing Oakland Hills as a monster is perhaps an understatement. Only two players, Tom Lehman and Steve Jones, were under par going into the final round. The greens have more undulations and twists and turns than a Coney Island rollercoaster and if Faldo found them a terror, they were a complete nightmare for Bernhard Langer.

The German was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score after the second round, but would have missed the half-way cut in any case. Three times in his career Langer has recovered from attacks of the yips, the dreaded mental/physical affliction that strikes golfers when they are standing over a three-foot putt. The Monster brought Langer to his knees and his putting is as bad as it has ever been.

He is so disconsolate he has hinted at quitting the game. "I've always said that I would stop playing when the game was no longer fun," Langer said. While it is true that consistently three-putting and even four-putting the greens here can hardly be described as fun, reports of Langer's retirement are premature. He is expected to play in the BMW International Open in Munich this week.

"He has conquered the yips before, so he knows what is required," John Simpson, his manager, said. As a last resort, Langer could always experiment with the broomhandle putter, a club that has helped transform the career of Sam Torrance.

Torrance, made an MBE earlier in the week, has surpassed himself here with rounds of 71, 69, 71 and at one over par for the tournament, he was only three strokes adrift of the leader, Lehman. Philip Walton, another exponent of the pendulum putter, was making his debut in the US Open and he found it a salutary experience.

Yesterday, the Dubliner shot 77 to finish 17 over par. "It's the toughest course I've ever played," Walton said. "The courses on the European Tour are going to be a piece of cake after this. I knew it was going to be hard, but I never imagined it would be quite so difficult. The mistake I made is that I didn't acclimatise myself properly. The heat got to me and I lost my rhythm. I'm not sorry I came. It's been a tremendous experience."

Walton was critical of some of the pin positions for the final round. "The position of the flag on the 14th should be illegal," he said. The green has a swale running from the front to back and the 14th is one of the Monster's most challenging par fours. The flag has been cut behind a bunker on the right. Walton three-putted the hole for a bogey five while Ian Woosnam took a six there. "You have to be playing really well on a course like this and I'm not," Woosnam said.

Perhaps the most surprising name on the leaderboard was that of Jones. After a dirt-bike accident in 1991, he didn't know if he would ever play golf again. He came off the bike in the Arizona desert and dislocated his left shoulder and right ankle and sustained ligament damage to a finger. It was two and a half years before he could swing a club.

"I'm still testing a new grip," he said. "I feel uncomfortable with it in tough situations." To compensate for the finger injury, he changed to a reverse overlap. "I'm still getting used to it," he said. This is only his fourth US Open and his best finish was tied eighth in 1990.

Norman, who had a three putt of Langer-like proportions at the 17th in the third round, began to make amends in the fourth. Resuming at three over for the championship, Norman picked up birdies at the first two holes to close the gap.

Meanwhile Faldo, who had made just four birdies in three rounds, reeled off six successive pars before gaining a rare birdie at the seventh. At that point, he was six strokes behind Lehman. The 37-year-old American Ryder Cup player held the lead courtesy of a record-equalling 65 in the third round.

Twelve months ago, he shot 67 in the third round of the US Open to share the lead with Norman, but a final round of 74 relegated him to third. "I've gone through a lot of pressure situations that have helped to develop character and maturity," he said.

US OPEN (Oakland Hills) Leading early final-round scores (US unless stated): 292 D Duval 75 72 75 70; A Morse 76 72 74 70; P Azinger 69 74 78 71. 294 *T Woods 76 69 73 72; J Huston 73 72 76 73. 296 A Rodriguez 71 77 76 72. 297 J Maggert 75 69 81 72; J Thorpe 75 71 76 73; B McCallister 71 75 76 75. 298 O Uresti 76 72 74 76. 299 G Trivisonno 69 75 78 77. 300 M Wiebe 74 74 75 77. 301 *S Scott 71 73 81 76; R Yokota 79 67 76 79. 302 M Burke 78 70 77 77. 309 S Kelly 73 75 79 82. * denotes amateur

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