Heath makes most of invitation without winning Welsh welcome

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The Independent Online

Having Nick Faldo as your manager has its advantages, not least a charmed touch when it comes to opening doors that usually have more locks than Harry Houdini's props cupboard. In golf's magic circle, "open sesame" has nothing on "Faldo's Opens".

Having Nick Faldo as your manager has its advantages, not least a charmed touch when it comes to opening doors that usually have more locks than Harry Houdini's props cupboard. In golf's magic circle, "open sesame" has nothing on "Faldo's Opens".

James Heath has been showing as much all year and yesterday went some way to justifying his inclusion with a 63 that shared the Wales Open lead. But even that seven-birdie proof of credentials might not stop the cries of favouritism that began to emerge this week.

Mark Mouland, the two-time Tour winner who appeared 16 times for Wales in Dunhill Cups and World Cups but whose request for an invite to his home Open was rejected, has been quoted as being bitter at seeing so many "unknown" Englishmen getting preference over local players because of certain connections. Heath's name, no doubt, was near the front of his mind.

So perhaps it wasn't so advisable for the 22-year-old to respond with shameless honesty to the questions of his manager's efforts to get his gladiator on to Celtic Manor's Roman Road course. "Nick got me in," he said. "He obviously has a lot of pull - a phone call from Nick Faldo goes a long way."

All the way, in fact, from South Wales to the Netherlands next week and to France following that. There, the St Omer Open will be the Surrey player's fifth European Tour invite of the season, which together with seven Challenge Tour invites, is not a bad return, seeing as he only turned professional in November. Heath's amateur record was tremendous. But that tremendous?

Faldo is in the field, although a long way down it, after a 72 left him a shot behind the similarly spluttering Colin Montgomerie. Both could only look up the leader board with envy at Ian Woosnam at five under. Only Heath, Miguel Angel Jimenez, David Lynn and Gary Emerson could eclipse the 47-year-old's 64.

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