Faldo concedes to the inevitable

Britain's finest follows Nicklaus in passing his record on to the irresistible force sweeping all before him

The first hole on the Old Course is one of the most welcoming sights in the game. There is enough room to land a fleet of B52s. Nevertheless, Nick Faldo's renaissance, such as it is, came to grief on this innocuous hole in the third round yesterday.

The first hole on the Old Course is one of the most welcoming sights in the game. There is enough room to land a fleet of B52s. Nevertheless, Nick Faldo's renaissance, such as it is, came to grief on this innocuous hole in the third round yesterday.

The plan is to drive over Grannie Clark's Wynd, the little road that crosses the joint first and 18th fairways, and leave yourself with not much more than a pitch shot to the green. There is one obvious danger. In front of the green rolls the Swilken Burn.

As hazards go it is not as wide or as deep as the Barry Burn at Carnoustie but, of course, it still has to be avoided at all costs. When Faldo won the Open here in 1990, with a record aggregate of 270, 18 under par, his course management was immaculate. Yesterday he was guilty of a gross error of judgement. Either that or he was just plain unlucky. His approach shot at the first cleared the burn but then spun backwards to find a watery grave and he had no choice but to take a penalty drop.

What was even odder is that his playing partner, the Swede Per-Ulrik Johansson, followed him into the water. Both ended up with double-bogey sixes and the worst possible start to their day.

In the second round it was the 16th that hurt Faldo when he was left of the target and visited a bunker. The result was a double-bogey six. Five years ago he didn't know what a bunker looked like. At the halfway stage Faldo was three under par following rounds of 71 and 70 and was already out of the Tiger hunt. All the hard work of the first two days was undone at a stroke and a 75 in the third round left him at level par for the championship.

Faldo believes that Woods can create a new record score for the tournament in the final round today. Asked if he resented losing his record, Faldo replied: "Not a bit," before hurling his cap to the ground.

"I wanted to keep it but I think Tiger will just cruise past tomorrow evening. No record is safe from him. He can blitz them all.

"The thing about Tiger is that he's got another gear, a fifth gear if you like. He just seems to pick up birdies casually whereas the rest of us have to grind away and somehow find a way of getting birdies.

"There are still great opportunities out there but you have to be brave and aggressive. If you want to win a major you've got to go out and grab it because you can't assume that Tiger will go backwards."

Faldo believes that Woods, who will complete the Grand Slam of majors at the age of 24 if he gets his hands on the old claret jug today, can surpass the achievements of Jack Nicklaus.

"To get a Grand Slam at his age would be a pretty darn good result. In fact, it would be frighteningly awesome. All credit to him. He's found a way of playing better than anybody else. Jack killed everybody mentally but I think Tiger can go on to be better than him. Tiger has more attention to deal with but his mindset is awesome. He will bring on a new generation of players. Jack was very strong but I think Tiger's even stronger. Every time the rest of us stop for five minutes we find we've lost ground. I think I'm going to have to play in Tigerless tournaments."

Faldo's judgement was at fault again at the second hole where he left his approach shot short. The result was a bogey five which put him back to level par. He got a stroke back at the par five fifth but it was his only birdie of the round.

"The start was really demoralising and I seemed to be fighting the odd bounces. Then I steadied down to mediocrity. I've just got to keep plugging away but it's difficult here."

Although the wind remained fairly calm, the Royal and Ancient attempted to shore up St Andrews's defences with some difficult pin positions, notably at the 15th and 16th.

Faldo has enjoyed the support of the galleries this week, sensing that in his dispute with Mark James they do not share the view of the former Ryder Cup captain. Faldo said he has received two sackfuls of mail from his fans.

Apart from Darren Clarke, the British challenge was only conspicuous by its absence. Faldo's portfolio includes three Opens and three Masters and that's six majors more than the European number one Colin Montgomerie. Yesterday the Scotsman had another disappointing day with a level-par 72 that left him on three under for the championship. Once again he is out of contention.

Montgomerie's record in the Open has been at odds with his form on the European Tour, a tour he has dominated for the last seven years. Yesterday he began promisingly with birdies at the third and the fifth to go to the turn in 34 but he dropped a shot at the short 11 and had a particularly frustrating back nine, coming home in 38 strokes.

Montgomerie, who said that he putted horrendously in compiling a 70 in the second round, fared little better in the third round and his putting appears to be driving him to distraction.

"If I didn't think there was a way out of this I'd give up," Monty said, "and I'm not going to give up."

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