Davis stays ahead of Danes on day of wind and wildness

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The Independent Online

The Dunlop Masters was blessed with a sight that was almost unrecognisable here yesterday, what with all the rule-breakers, wind-breakers and club-breakers that has made this anything but an enchanted forest this week.

The Dunlop Masters was blessed with a sight that was almost unrecognisable here yesterday, what with all the rule-breakers, wind-breakers and club-breakers that has made this anything but an enchanted forest this week.

Was it Ian Poulter in a pair of normal trousers? Er, no. Colin Montgomerie in a good mood? Don't be daft. Alexander Lyle in the lead, then? No, poor old Sandy was 18-over.

There was something even more unusual than all the above - a smiling face. In fact, two as Brian Davis and Thomas Bjorn reminded us that golf doesn't have to be a game of controversy, a game of sinister whispers, a game of indignant anger - people actually play it to enjoy themselves. Well, some of the time.

Davis was first up, beaming with joy after his control in the high winds affixed a 71 quite tidily to his first-round 68 to take a one-shot lead over a group comprising two Danes - Bjorn and Soren Hansen - as well as Swindon's David Howell on three under.

"Before, I've always driven myself into the ground," said the 30-year-old Londoner, who has relocated to America this year. "I live and die by the sword and sometimes it gets the better of me. But I remember at Phoenix I was mad at myself for missing the cut by a shot and my little boy stood up in the car and said 'Dada'. All of a sudden I didn't care about golf - for about a minute."

It made you feel glad to be alive, especially when Bjorn - a rather deep young man who this time last year admitted to being "plagued by demons" - joined in with the pervading joie de vivre after displaying the touch of an angel in his day's best round of 68.

"I got to the stage where I was no good for myself, no good for my family," said the 34-year-old, whose trip to the dark side traces directly back to the Open he so wastefully blew at Sandwich two years ago.

"I actually now try to have a laugh on the course. I don't want to live with the stress any more. Take this event. I screwed the right head on this morning. In fact, I think I've screwed the right head on every day since last summer."

Good thing, because almost everyone else was losing theirs, Sam Torrance even seeing the head fly off his driver after his shaft snapped on the 7th tee. At five over, the 51-year-old commendably still ducked inside the cut, which at seven over was the highest of the year.

Meanwhile, Montgomerie may not have threatened the world-grinning record, but was content enough with his 75, which left him seven behind. "A quiet day, no incidents, no controversy, thank God," he said, referring to the rules rumpus that has dominated his week. "The only thing to report was those geese which crapped in the trap on the last."

Montgomerie did not have to go in that bunker. Which was a mercy, as he has been up to his neck in the stuff recently.

* England's Laura Davies set her sights on ending a long victory drought after a first-round six-under-par 66 at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in Atlanta. The 41-year-old finished one ahead of Sweden's world Annika Sorenstam, Australia's Karrie Webb and Italy's Guilia Sergas.

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