Leaney relief at Daly's fair play

America's reputation in international team competitions has not been all it might be of late but John Daly, golf's "Wild Thing", did much to repair matters on the opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Cup here yesterday. After Brookline, the US Ryder Cup captain, Curtis Strange, might have to think about picking Daly as the ultimate wild card to make sure next September's match at The Belfry passes off smoothly.

America's reputation in international team competitions has not been all it might be of late but John Daly, golf's "Wild Thing", did much to repair matters on the opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Cup here yesterday. After Brookline, the US Ryder Cup captain, Curtis Strange, might have to think about picking Daly as the ultimate wild card to make sure next September's match at The Belfry passes off smoothly.

On his return to the scene of his Open triumph in 1995, Daly, who has been in the headlines more for boozing, gambling and walking off courses than his golf in the intervening period, was involved in a curious incident in his match with Australia's Stephen Leaney.

Leaney was three strokes ahead under the medal-matchplay format when he snap-hooked his drive at the short par-four 12th into a bush. Playing a provisional, the Australian then drove to six feet, his ball running over the lip of the hole.

In the circumstances, Leaney had no intention of looking for his original ball. He did not have to but he could not stop others looking for it. Daly's caddie persuaded the American to begin a search as Leaney stood by the edge of the fairway hoping the ball would not be found. He need not have worried since Daly soon called off the search well before the allotted five minutes was up.

Daly then got up and down for a birdie-three but Leaney holed his putt for a remarkable par-four to limit the damage to a one-stroke swing. "If I had to take an unplayable from the bush I could have taken a five or a six," said Leaney.

"John was very sporting. He's a real gent. It was a bit of a turning point in the match." Leaney went on to record a 67 against a 70 as Australia beat the USA 2-1.

Given Daly's attitude, there was no dispute for David Garland, the tournament director, who was nearby when the incident on the 12th was unfolding, to rule on. However, Garland did inform Leaney that, under paragraph 27-2b/1 of a weighty tome called the "Decisions on the Rules of Golf'', he could have made his provisional the ball in play by going immediately to the green - golfers are allowed to run - and taking his putt.

But, queried Leaney, then he would have been playing out of turn. In fact, in strokeplay, under which rules medal-matchplay is conducted, there is no penalty for playing out of turn. In strict matchplay, the opponent can have the shot replayed but merely touching the ball would condemn the original as lost.

Of course, being asked in acrimonious circumstances by her American opposition to replay a chip she had holed, because she had played out of turn, was what caused Annika Sorenstam to burst into tears at last week's Solheim Cup.

Garland said: "In this instance, John Daly's sportsmanship and behaviour was exemplary." Tom Lehman was the only American winner as all but two results went according to the seedings. Ireland beat New Zealand 2-1, but a far greater upset occurred when the No 1 seeds and host nation Scotland were defeated 2-1 by Germany.

Colin Montgomerie has suffered far more humbling defeats than the one Sven Struver handed the European No 1 yesterday, but the German has struggled this season and is 97th on the Order of Merit.

Yet his flawless 66 was four strokes too good for Montgomerie while Bernhard Langer beat Gary Orr with a 68 to a 70. However, Andrew Coltart's one-stroke win over Thomas Gogele means the Scots still have a chance of reaching the semi-finals.

The joy on Struver's face as he walked off the 18th green told everything about how much his and his team's win meant. "This is one of the best days in my career," Struver said. "I enjoyed this. I've been quite down recently but this is great for me. We get along extremely well as a team and Bernhard is a great captain. Dinner will taste especially good tonight."

Wales beat England 3-0 in the other Group One match, the English trio of Jamie Spence, Brian Davis and Roger Chapman the only team not to have a player under par. Best of the Welsh was David Park's 67.

This is Wales's first appearance for four years but possibly their last if there is a change from the team format next year. "Just when we get back in and are doing alright, they want to stop it," harrumphed Ian Woosnam.

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