Golf / World Match Play: Faldo ready for the final reckoning: Another head-to-head between England and America beckons as Pavin finds the extra to shake off Montgomerie: Faldo bt Frost 2 and 1

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The Independent Online
FOR MOST of the time at chilly, windy Wentworth, Nick Faldo played as he is supposed to - like the best golfer in the world. He was four under par for the afternoon round when he closed out David Frost, of South Africa, by 2 and 1 in their semi-final of the Toyota World Match Play Championship. Today Faldo will attempt to retain his title, which he also won in 1989. In what will be his fifth appearance in the final, he will meet Corey Pavin of the United States.

'Both David and I played well given the conditions,' Faldo said afterwards. He acknowledged the match may have turned on an incident at the par-three 10th hole in the afternoon. Faldo 'rushed' his four-iron tee shot, but it got a generous ricochet off the bank to the left of the green. 'That was my break of the day,' he admitted. He rolled home the nine-foot birdie putt bequeathed him by his good fortune to go two up. His advantage was not threatened again.

It was an archetypal autumn day - intermittent sun spreading behind languorously drifting clouds and the silvan splendour of the Wentworth estate bearing a rich tapestry of leaves in green, gold, brown and red. The stately trees tended to disguise the strength of the wind, but the ball certainly knew enough about it once it soared above them.

The last six holes in particular played remorselessly long. Faldo, who is a member of the club, could not remember ever having to hit as much as a four-iron into the green at the 380- yard 16th. Yesterday he did it twice.

'Normally it's something like an eight-iron,' he said. 'This was the toughest wind you can get at Wentworth.'

But then Faldo is at present golf's toughest player. He and Frost both reached the turn in 32, three under par, yesterday afternoon, at which point Faldo had done no more than hold on to the one-up lead he had taken into lunch. After winning the 10th with that birdie two and the 13th with a par four, there was a pervasive air of inevitability about the subsequent proceedings, and Frost's unsurprising tenacity could do nothing either to dispel that notion or alter the outcome. A half in par fives at the 17th signalled the conclusion of the action.

Colin Montgomerie's ultimately futile fireworks in the other semi-final excepted, this year's tournament has conspicuously failed to generate the level of excitement promised by the quality of the starting line-up. It has hurt enormously that Ballesteros, Daly and Baker all departed on Thursday. But Faldo v Frost not only served up some impressive golf, at least in the afternoon, it also offered an intriguing sub-plot.

Both players are disciples of David Leadbetter, golf's foremost teaching guru. Indeed Frost, who started working with Leadbetter in 1984, has been his pupil for a year longer than Faldo. He was even the model for Leadbetter's first golf instruction book, but yesterday lunchtime it was Faldo who required the soothing tones of his master's voice.

He had relinquished a lead of three up after 15 holes with some indifferent striking over the last three, two of which he lost. On such occasions, Faldo himself can often look lost, assuming the perplexed expression of a man who is sure he has set the video recorder correctly and is astonished to discover that it has taped the wrong programme.

Ten minutes with Leadbetter sorted out the problem. They reaffirmed the validity of the diagnosis they had previously reached that suggested that Faldo had lately acquired an unwanted tendency to attack the ball from too steep an angle on the down swing. Having put that to rights, Faldo put Frost to flight.

While he was waiting for the other match to finish, Faldo was asked who he thought would win. 'I have a sneaking feeling I will be playing Monty.'

Sadly for his recent Ryder Cup colleague, it was just about the only thing Faldo got wrong all day.

----------------------------------------------------------------- FALDO v FROST ----------------------------------------------------------------- Morning Afternoon Hole Par Yards Faldo Frost Faldo Frost 1 4 471 4 4 4 (+1) 4 2 3 155 3 3 3 2 (E) 3 4 452 4 4 4 4 4 5 501 4 4 4 4 5 3 191 4 3 (+1) 2 (+1) 3 6 4 356 4 4 4 3 (E) 7 4 399 3 (E) 4 3 3 8 4 398 4 4 4 (+1) 5 9 4 450 3 (+1) 4 4 4 Out: 35 3373 33 34 32 32 10 3 186 2 (+2) 3 2 (+2) 3 11 4 376 4 4 4 4 12 5 483 5 5 4 4 13 4 441 4 (+3) 5 4 (+3) 5 14 3 179 3 (+2) 2 3 3 15 4 466 4 (+3) 5 5 (+2) 4 16 4 380 6 (+2) 4 4 4 17 5 571 5 5 5 5 18 5 502 5 (+1) 4 In: 37 3584 38 37 72 6957 71 71 Faldo 1 up Faldo won 2&1 -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

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