Lane banishes negative Belfry memories

B & H International Open: Former Ryder Cup player makes successful return to scene of greatest disappointment
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The Independent Online

Peter Baker's surge up the leaderboard on Friday in the Benson and Hedges International was partly inspired by watching a video of the 1993 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. It was the week of Baker's career, as he won three of his four matches. You could not pay Barry Lane to watch the same video. He lost three times out of three, including a vital singles against Chip Beck. Lane was ahead for much of the match but lost at the last.

In the first round here on Thursday, Lane landed in the bunker to the right of the 18th fairway, just as he had done nine years ago. The lie was good, just like that previous occasion. Back then, he went for the green with a three-iron. "I was all square at the time and had to go for it," he remembered. "I caught it a bit thin and it pitched a yard short in the water."

On Thursday, Lane took a more pragmatic approach. He attempted to lay up with a wedge but caught it slightly fat. The ball took a hard bounce and ran into the pond again. "I just had to laugh," he said.

Yesterday, in the third round, Lane played the hole in textbook fashion, hitting his approach right over the flag and only just missing a birdie. The par gave the 41-year-old a two-stroke lead as he walked off the 18th green while others ploughed on into the cocktail hour to satisfy the demands of BBC television.

Lane was at 10 under par after a 65 that set a record for the Brabazon course which was redesigned three years ago. The back nine, which included his only bogey of the day at the short 12th and birdies at the two par-fives, the 15th and 17th, was less eventful than the opening half. Birdies at the second, third, sixth and eighth holes were followed by an eagle-two at the ninth, where he holed an eight-iron from 164 yards. "It looked good in the air but I suppose it was a bit lucky to pitch straight in the hole," he said.

"This course does not owe me one," Lane added of 1993. "I played really well all week at the Ryder Cup but didn't win a point. That is the nature of the event."

Though Lane won four times on tour, his last victory was of the unofficial variety in the Andersen World Matchplay in 1995. The event was not yet a World Golf Championship but still offered a $1 million first prize. "I didn't have any trouble spending it, and nor did my ex-wife," he said. "It didn't affect my form. My game just went off over a number of years.

"I was enjoying myself today. I was nervous but I kept going. After the bogey at the 12th I played lovely down the stretch. A lot of players have won in their 40s and it would probably be the biggest win of my career if I won again."

Of the current Ryder Cup team, only five made the cut, and Thomas Bjorn went south yesterday with an 80. Colin Montgomerie had said after his 67 on Friday that a win for a team member would be a big boost. But the fairways and greens he hit in the second round were missed again yesterday and he stuttered at level par for the day, six under, with three to play. Lane's nearest challengers were Baker, Michael Campbell and Greg Owen, who were all eight under with two to play.

Caddie changes are frequent and numerous but the ramifications when a top player ends a long-standing arrangement can be far-reaching. The domino effect began when Montgomerie parted company with Alastair McLean, his bagman for 10 years, last Sunday. The man Monty wanted instead was Andy Prodger, who filled in for the injured McLean for one of his Volvo PGA victories. Prodger was working with Montgomerie's Ryder Cup team-mate Phillip Price, but indicated he would be willing to switch horses. As they have little security of employment, it is far from uncommon for caddies to "sack" their employer before getting the push.

Prodger is a man of few words, but not mentioning his new relationship to Price caused a bit of a to-do. Prodger's wife tipped off Price's wife, who confirmed it with Prodger before Price was alerted. "I don't mind him joining Monty, that's fair enough," Price said. "But it was the way it was done that I didn't really like. It's always a free-for-all changing caddies but it was embarrassing for it to happen in the middle of a tournament with everyone else knowing but me. I don't have a problem with Monty but one of them could have let me know." The mix-up was more regrettable given that the pair share the same management stable, IMG.

Price promptly sacked Prodger before the third round and yesterday used Pierre Fulke's caddie, John Hort, after the Swede missed the cut. Montgomerie engaged Robert Karlsson's man, Jason Henning, for this week only and will team up with Prodger at the Deutsche Bank Open in Germany, where Tiger Woods will be defending the title.

Prodger had two spells with Nick Faldo in the 1980s and was on the bag when the Englishman won his first two majors, the Open at Muirfield in 1987 and the Masters at Augusta in 1989. "He's a very professional caddie," Faldo said of Prodger. "He is very quiet but, with Monty, he will only have to listen."

After the 1987 Muirfield win, Faldo asked Prodger if he was going to stay around and celebrate. "He said he had to get back to Watford to mend his mum's heating," Faldo recalled. "His other great line was in the play-off against Scott Hoch at Augusta. On the 11th green, when it was all dark, all he said was: 'It all looks a bit of a blur to me, guv'."

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