Goosen comes out of shadows to pile on pressure

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The Independent Online

UNDER MURKY skies that seemed to fit the present sombre mood of the golfing community, Europe's professionals returned to the soggy fairways at Montecastillo. The Volvo Masters, once the Tour's season finale, has been relegated to the penultimate leg on this year's circuit, with the new AmEx World Championship still to come next week at Valderrama.

UNDER MURKY skies that seemed to fit the present sombre mood of the golfing community, Europe's professionals returned to the soggy fairways at Montecastillo. The Volvo Masters, once the Tour's season finale, has been relegated to the penultimate leg on this year's circuit, with the new AmEx World Championship still to come next week at Valderrama.

For the first time in the 12-year history of the event, the order of merit winner will not be crowned at its conclusion. Even though Colin Montgomerie should become the No 1 for the seventh year running, the Scot's lead is substantial but not yet secure. Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Retief Goosen can all enlist mathematicians to prove their chances have not yet evaporated.

Goosen could not have had a better start to his quest for double victories than with a 10-under-par 62. Phil Price trailed by three, with Bernhard Langer and Padraig Harrington among those a shot further back. Garcia had a 69, Montgomerie a 70 and Westwood a 72, level par, average scores on a day when only 11 of the 66 players were over par.

The South African, however, has a habit of being overshadowed when playing brilliant golf. His superb performance at Wentworth, when beating Garcia in the World Match Play, was forgotten after El Niño kicked his shoe past the ear of the referee, John Grant. The 19-year-old has been spoken to by David Garland, director of tour operations, and by his father, Victor, a club professional. "Sergio has been given a rap on the knuckles," Garland said, "and is very apologetic. A telling off from his father is stronger than anything we could do."

Grant was involved with another incident yesterday when Westwood put his second at the par-five 12th through the green. His ball ended under a bush and behind a pile of grass cuttings. Westwood and his playing partner, Garcia, felt he should get a free drop but Grant indicated that since the cuttings were decomposing, they were abandoned and not left for collection, for which relief is allowed.

Less than happy, Westwood attempted to play the shot and saw the ball bury in the cuttings. At this point, Grant offered the advice Westwood should already have known that the cuttings were loose impediments and could have been moved. Westwood thought he would not bother and hacked the ball out, going on to take a double-bogey seven, but not before telling Grant he had no further need of his services.

Whether Westwood used the "F" word in the course of the proceedings, and whether an audible obscenity was caught by Sky TV's microphones, was under review by Garland last night. After his round, Westwood offered a brusque "no comment" over the incident but was immediately led into the corner of the players' lounge for a 10-minute chat with the chief referee, John Paramor.

"Lee was not very happy with the ruling but he is fully understanding of it now," Paramor said. Westwood's behaviour was not discussed, apparently. "I was more interested in the ruling than anything else," Paramor added.

Goosen's score was one better than the official course record but preferred lies were in operation after heavy rainfall. But the greens stilled rolled truly and an eagle at the ninth took the placid South African to the turn in 29. "I'll have to play great to win this week and next week," he said. "The pressure is on Lee, Sergio and myself to overtake Monty. There is no pressure on him."

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