Golf / US PGA Championship: Price rises to double challenge: Faldo advances to catch Woosnam as Welshman and Montgomerie falter at US PGA Championship

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The Independent Online
NICK PRICE was on course here to become the first player in 12 years to win consecutive major championships. He pulled clear in the second round of the 76th US PGA Championship at Southern Hills yesterday, surpassing his first round of 67 with a 65.

The 37-year-old Zimbabwean, who has Welsh ancestry and is domiciled in Florida, was fortunate here to be drawn with Jose-Maria Olazabal and Ernie Els. If anybody says draws aren't fixed don't believe them. A combination of the Open champion, the Masters champion and the US Open champion playing together did not come about by accident.

The result was magnificent as the trio thrived on their own personal competition. In the first round Price covered the back nine in 32; yesterday he did it in 31. At eight under par for the championship - six in front of Olazabal, seven in front of Els and five in front of Corey Pavin, Jay Haas and Ben Crenshaw - Price will take some catching. His aggregate of 132 is a stroke outside the tournament record.

Price, who shared the lead with Colin Montgomerie at three under par after the first round, had one birdie on the front nine as Olazabal and Els got off to a dispiriting start. So, too, did Montgomerie, who dropped three strokes over the first five holes.

Big Monty went to the turn in 40 and lost further ground with a double bogey six at the 12th. At the same hole, Sam Torrance had the same score as he too lost touch with the leaders. Montgomerie transposed his first round 67 into a 76. 'Don't laugh at my golf, it's not funny,' he told a reporter. 'It's very disappointing. That's golf. It would be very boring to score 67 every day.'

However, Nick Faldo recovered from a 73 with a 67 to stand level par. He came back in 33, but the most dramatic back nine came from Haas. He had a triple-bogey seven at the ninth and had six birdies from the 10th to the 16th.

Els, who beat Montgomerie and Loren Roberts in a play- off to win the US Open at Oakmont in June, arrived complaining of nausea and went to hospital for blood tests. He had contracted a virus and has lost about a stone.

Resuming at two under par, he began with three successive bogey fives and went to the turn in 38, three over, compared with Olazabal's 33 and Price's 34. Olazabal, who dropped a shot at the second to stand at three over par, then birdied the fourth, the fifth and the ninth. As they headed for home, the dream ticket really got down to business.

Price fell short of the green at the ninth and his chip hit the flag. Price and Els holed from around 15 feet for birdies and Olazabal, who was closer to the flag, missed.

Olazabal got to one under, holing from 12 feet for a two at the 164-yard 11th. The 12th, a par four of 448 yards, is considered the hardest on the course. It has a dogleg to the left and a creek encircles the green. Price outdrove Olazabal by about 80 yards. The Spaniard then hit a tremendous iron to within five feet yet Price even managed to upstage that. He got it within two feet of the hole: Olazabal missed his putt, Price didn't.

They had the tasty par-five 13th to come and all three plundered it. Els joined the party with an eagle three to reappear on the leaderboard at two under for the tournament; both Price and Olazabal had birdies to stand at seven under and two under. Ahead of them Ian Woosnam, one stroke off the lead overnight, momentarily led the field and then went rapidly backwards.

When Woosnam had a birdie at the fifth, hitting a five- iron to 10 feet, he was at the top of the leaderboard at four under. When he had a double-bogey six at the seventh he was left in Price's slipstream. Woosnam was in the trees at the seventh, was short of the green with his second and then chipped into a bunker. At the par-three eighth he took three putts and had dropped three strokes in two holes. He finished with a two-over-par 72.

Meanwhile, Price pressed on. Since winning the US PGA Championship in 1992 Price has recorded 15 victories all over the world including the Open Championship at Turnberry last month. The last player to win two majors in a row was Tom Watson in 1982 with the US Open and the Open. Price moved to eight under with a birdie at the 16th, his fifth of the round. Price said he was not entirely satisfied with his swing at Turnberry and has been refining with David Leadbetter. 'My ball-striking is better now,' he said. 'I've got the recipe right.'

Blaine McCallister, who began the day at four over par, posted a 64, a stroke outside the championship record set by Ray Floyd on the same course in 1982. The half-way cut was predicted at five over par and among the casualties were Seve Ballesteros, John Daly, Jesper Parnevik and Arnold Palmer. This was Arnie's swansong in the US PGA in which he has played for 37 consecutive years. He bowed out in style, holing a putt from around 20 feet for a par at the 18th in a round of 74.

US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Tulsa, Oklahoma) Early second-round scores (US unless stated): 132 N Price (Zim) 67 65. 137 C Pavin 70 67; J Haas 70 67; B Crenshaw 70 67. 138 B McCallister 74 64; J M Olazabal (Sp) 68 66. 139 F Nobilo (NZ) 72 67; E Els (SA) 68 71; G Day 70 69, G Morgan 71 68; P Mickelson 68 71. 140 K Triplett 71 69; C Stadler 70 70; I Woosnam (GB) 68 72; M Ozaki (Japan) 71 69; T Kite 72 68; N Faldo (GB) 73 67; F Zoeller 69 71; M McNulty (Zimb) 72 68; G Norman (Aus) 71 69. 141 T Dolby 73 68; L Roberts 69 72; T Watson 69 72. 142 L Wadkins 69 73; F Couples 68 74; D Edwards 72 70; B Henninger 77 65. 143 D Hammond 74 69; B Estes 72 71; S Elkington (Aus) 73 70; B Fleisher 75 68; M Springer 77 66; B Lane (GB) 70 73; G Kraft 74 69; T Smith 74 69; B Boyd 72 71; M McCumber 73 70; C Montgomerie (GB) 67 76. 144 A Magee 70 74; B Glasson 71 73; L Mize 72 72; R Zokol (Can) 77 67; B Langer (Ger) 73 71; T Lehman 73 71; L Janzen 73 71; C Strange 73 71; L Clements 74 70; S Torrance (GB) 69 75; T Nakajima (Japan) 73 71. 145 H Meshiai (Japan) 74 71; N Lancaster 73 72; K Perry 78 67; R Floyd 69 76; S Lyle

(GB) 75 70; B Faxon 72 73; P Senior (Aus) 74 71; F Funk 76 69, B Mayfair 72 72; R McDougal 76 69; P Stewart 72 73. 146 B Bryant 76 70; J Daly 73 73; J Mahaffey 72 74; T Johnstone (Zim) 75 71; D Love III 73 73; B Ackerman 72 74, J Roth 73 73; L Nelson 75 71. 147 N Henke 72 75; S Hoch 74 73; J Haeggman (Swe) 72 75; T Tryba 74 73; M Gove 72 75, D Kestner 73 74; D Barr (Can) 71 76; J McGovern 73 74. 148 S Simpson 75 73; I Baker-Finch (Aus) 74 74; M Heinen 75 73. 149 R Philo 76 73; S Lowery 72 77; B Tway 77 72; V Singh (Fiji) 70 79; J White 81 68; P Azinger 75 74. 150 W Chapman 75 75; B Lohr 77 73; W Smith 72 78; C Rocca (It) 73 77. 151 M Baum 77 74; J Huston 78 73; J Lee 77 74; J Wisz 74 77; B Ogle (Aus) 75 76. 152 B Redmond 77 75; R Acton 76 76; J Parnevik (Swe) 79 73. 153 A Palmer 79 74; B Sherfy 79 74; P Oakley 77 76; P O'Brien 76 77; J Maggert 78 75. 154 W Frantz 78 76; S Ballesteros (Sp) 78 76; K Cashman 75 79; J Lewis 77 77. 157 S Smith 83 74. 158 S Williams 77 81; M Biamon 82 76; S Mahlberg 79 79. 175 G Bowman 87 88.

(Photograph omitted)

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