Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo were once the cream of European golf but yesterday were off and out of the Cisco World Match Play Championship. Ballesteros, the five-times former winner playing at Wentworth for the first time in seven years, gave the many supporters who came out to see him plenty to enjoy before falling 3 and 2 to the Ryder Cup captain, Sam Torrance.
Faldo, however, suffered his worst-ever defeat in the event, losing 9 and 8 to Padraig Harrington. The "old-timers" were drafted in to help cover the gaps in the field due to the absence of Americans but only Torrance, who now faces a far sterner test in Vijay Singh, and Ian Woosnam will see action today. Woosnam beat the US Open champion Retief Goosen 4 and 3.
Harrington never missed a green in regulation against Faldo, while Ballesteros hit only 17 of 34. These days when he goes in the trees it tends to be too deep for the miraculous recoveries but his short game and putting retain an unmistakable brilliance.
Torrance, at 48 four years Seve's senior, has been preoccupied with the Ryder Cup all season but remains a more consistent player than Ballesteros and that was the only difference between them yesterday. Ballesteros was round in 68 in the morning, although Torrance birdied the 18th to draw back to only one down.
But, after the interval, the Spaniard's birdies were replaced with bogeys. The crucial run was three dropped shots in the row from the seventh, his tree-bound drives at the eighth and ninth surrendering the initiative. Ballesteros did win the 13th and 14th to get back to two-down but Torrance, who was due to do some commentary for the BBC before his last minute call-up on Tuesday, secured the win two holes later.
"This is certainly better than watching," Torrance, who is now guaranteed at least £65,000, said. "It was a great day. We both had support but they were definitely for Seve. He is close to playing better but he is tough to play, no matter how he is playing. If you back him into a corner you know he is going to chip stiff or hole it."
Faldo had never before been beaten earlier than the 33rd hole at the course which lies predominantly in Surrey. "I was just delighted not to be beaten in Berkshire," he said. Last year Faldo took Darren Clarke, Harrington's next opponent, to the 40th hole. But after bogeying the first three holes, Faldo found no way back against a player who was an approximate 12 under par for their 28 holes.
The 44-year-old Faldo knew he was in trouble as early as the first hole of the morning when he duffed a chip into a bunker. "That was great; couldn't believe that," Faldo said.
Off the course, Faldo, on his third marriage and having moved into a house on the grounds of Sir Elton John's estate in Windsor, is happier than ever. He may decide to stay off the course more often. "Rounds like that make me wonder why I'm out there," he said. "I was really looking forward to the game and thought I might have half a chance, but to play that badly was disappointing.
"I don't feel like playing this blooming game at the moment. I've had a month off and one day in a row is enough. Maybe I'll take another month off. I need something to give my game a lift, I don't need days like today. I am going to get my chainsaw out and go and have some fun in the garden. I won't have a go at my clubs with it since I'd probably miss them."
Harrington has recently undergone laser eye surgery and spent most of September practising after the cancellation of the AmEx World Championship and the Ryder Cup. "That was a big scalp for me today," said the Irishman, who attended a Faldo masterclass a decade ago. "I could probably have beaten him that day by this margin because he had cut his thumb and could only play one-handed.
"Today I didn't make any mistakes and I didn't want to give Nick a chance of getting back into the match. I have lost too many tournaments when I thought I had them won but in matchplay I've always played above my ability in strokeplay." The last time Harrington faced Clarke was in the final of the Irish Closed in 1990, losing 3 and 2. "It was Darren's last round as an amateur while I was just starting out," Harrington said. "I hope I don't feel as intimidated tomorrow as I did that day."
Woosnam's last match in this tournament was against Tiger Woods in 1998. Woosie was two-up with three to play but lost at the 37th. After a morning 65, which put him four-up, the Welshman, who now plays Colin Montgomerie, was pleased to end the match at the 15th after adding another six birdies in the afternoon.
WORLD MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth) First round (GB or Irl unless stated): T Bjorn (Den) bt A Scott (Aus) 4 and 3; R Goosen (SA) lost to I Woosnam 4 and 3; P Harrington bt N Faldo 9 and 8; S Torrance bt S Ballesteros (Sp) 3 and 2. Quarter-final tee-off times: 0900 & 1300: L Westwood v Bjorn. 0915 & 1315: C Montgomerie v Woosnam. 0930 & 1330: D Clarke v Harrington. 0945 & 1345: V Singh (Fij) v Torrance.Reuse content