Dunhill Cup: Spain in daylight robbery

SPEAKING OF today's clash between Spain and South Africa in the Rugby World Cup, Jose Maria Olazabal promised: "It will be quite easy for us, so we are going to kick some ass." With the enthusiasm of Sergio Garcia, and Miguel Angel Jimenez as an unlikely, but highly effective, anchorman, Spain have a better chance when the golfers of the two nations meet in a far more even contest in this morning's semi-finals of the Alfred Dunhill Cup.

SPEAKING OF today's clash between Spain and South Africa in the Rugby World Cup, Jose Maria Olazabal promised: "It will be quite easy for us, so we are going to kick some ass." With the enthusiasm of Sergio Garcia, and Miguel Angel Jimenez as an unlikely, but highly effective, anchorman, Spain have a better chance when the golfers of the two nations meet in a far more even contest in this morning's semi-finals of the Alfred Dunhill Cup.

South Africa, who could become the first country to win the event three times in succession, comfortably swept aside the English 3-0 to book a place against the team they beat in last year's final. Retief Goosen's 66 was four too few for Lee Westwood while Ernie Els dropped two late shots in his 67 against David Howell. More concerned about their team's progress with the oval ball, Frost added: "We don't want England to lose twice in the same day."

As the world rankings have been used to decide the seedings, Spain are ranked No 2 to South Africa's No 3, but they only survived after a dramatic turnaround in their final group match against Ireland.

It might have been stretching a point for Paul McGinley, the Irish captain, to describe Spain's comeback as greater than the Americans in the Ryder Cup, but only just. Spurred on by a fax signed by the Irish rugby squad, the country's emerald-sweatered golfers made a stunning start. Conditions were perfect for scoring before the breeze got up and Darren Clarke was seven under after 11, McGinley four under at the turn and Padraig Harrington four under after five to be up by four strokes in all three matches. Only McGinley hung on to beat Olazabal 68-70, a two-shot swing at the last to the Spaniard making the result appear closer than it was.

Clarke's problems, after Garcia had birdied the 13th to go four under himself, started when he found Hell bunker with his second at the 14th. He had to chip out backwards and took a bogey six. But when he birdied the next, and his opponent missed from inside, even Garcia's optimism wavered at three behind with three to play.

Yet Clarke, who earlier in the summer lost the European Open after a 60 in the second round and a hole-in-one in the third, dropped another shot via a bunker at the 16th and then double-bogeyed the 17th. His right foot slipped on the drive, which ended up way to the left, by the second fairway.

This is not a route usually plotted by caddies on a hole where the green is famously and fearsomely protected by road behind and bunker in front. So the surprise was genuine for both Clarke and his bagman, Billy Foster, when the Irishman's second found a pot bunker 70 yards short of the green. Again he could only chip out, and he took three more to get down while Garcia had played the most delightful approach, a low-runner with a six- iron, and just missed the putt to take the lead.

But Garcia made no mistake with his birdie chance at the last, Clarke only parring the hole after leaving his second short of the Valley of Sin, and now the attention was on Jimenez, who had been three behind before he birdied the 14th. The Spaniard then also birdied the 16th and holed from 12 feet for another at the last to force extra time against Harrington.

Playing against his Ryder Cup foursomes partner, Harrington had done nothing wrong but saw Jimenez, who beat Colin Montgomerie at the 19th to secure Spanish qualification on the same day a year ago, again hole from a similar distance at the first for his fourth birdie in six holes. Jimenez had said he would be there when needed. "I promised and I always make my promises," he said. Olazabal added: "He is a warrior."

"I'm stunned that we were beaten," said McGinley, whose team were a combined 11 under par. "Padraig is bitterly disappointed and Darren is 10-times worse. He feels he has let everyone down. We were all under par very early on but somehow they wriggled free. I'll be surprised if they don't go on to win. It seemed destined for Jimenez to hole that putt at the first."

Destiny seems to be a full-time companion for Garcia, the 19-year-old Spanish captain on his debut in the event. Garcia, still in his first professional season and making his debut at the Home of Golf, took to the Old Course immediately but even so his three successive 67s, leaving El Nino one behind Carlos Franco's 16 under, is remarkable scoring. Tiger Woods was 14 under for four rounds here last year and two such brilliant shotmakers should enjoy themselves at next year's Open at St Andrews.

Franco's second 65 of the week, beating the 57-year-old Isao Aoki by 12 strokes, could not prevent defeat for Paraguay by Japan but Australia's 2-1 win over Scotland took the team from Down Under through to meet Sweden in the other semi-final. Only Mark O'Meara was a winner for the Americans as the No 1 seeds lost 2-1 to Sweden, for whom Gabriel Hjertstedt and Jarmo Sandelin were convincing victors over Payne Stewart and Tom Lehman.

It is now four years running that a home nation has not made it to the semi-finals while Japan were denied a place in the last four for the first time in nine years because they lost to Australia on Thursday, a result that hinged on Craig Parry's pitch-in for eagle on the 18th.

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