Rose's slow day in the fast lane
Sunday 30 May 2004
What else would you expect on the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend? No one was going anywhere fast, on the roads or the leaderboard of the Volvo PGA Championship. For Justin Rose it was more a case of staying in control of the wheels.
The 23-year-old Englishman led the Masters by two strokes at the halfway stage and crashed to an 81 in the third round. He led the PGA by two after 36 holes and bogeyed the first yesterday. It was a difficult day on the West Course for everyone. The skies threatened but while there were no interruptions, a capricious breeze played havoc.
Ian Poulter, a close friend of Rose, had a 77. Vijay Singh, the world No 2, had a 71 when he required a score in the 60s to get back into contention. Ernie Els, the first-round leader when he scored a 64, went out in four over and only got up to nine under when he finished with an eagle and a birdie over the two closing par fives.
Els and his playing partner, Darren Clarke, only had one birdie between them going to the turn. An eagle at the 11th and a birdie at the 17th put Clarke at 11 under, handily placed, but his drive at the last finished up against the fence of someone's garden. He had to take a penalty drop and finished with a six. Clarke, famously, has worked hard on his temperament but by anyone's reading of his body language it would have to be suggested he was not best pleased.
Against this background Rose did well to maintain his status by birdieing the 17th to return to level par for the day. But his birdie effort at the final hole just missed to leave him one behind Angel Cabrera. The Argentinian scored a 68, starting his back nine with birdie-birdie-eagle to be 12 under and one ahead of a group of four players, including Rose.
"I guess it is encouraging to be still only one off the lead," Rose said. "I got frustrated because I felt I struck the ball better than on the first two days but couldn't score. The pins were all on the edges of the slopes. I hit a lot of good putts but they didn't go in. At least it was better than that Saturday in April."
Rose will be seeking his first win for two years and by far the biggest title of his career, as well as a first prize of £419,778. The same could be said of all those on the leaderboard. Cabrera was second three years ago but Scott Drummond, who had a 68 to join Rose, South African Darren Fichardt and Sweden's Joakim Haeggman in second place, is playing in his first PGA.
Only Arnold Palmer, in 1975, has won the tournament on his debut. Drummond has more things to worry about than the pressure he will be under today. Born in Shrewsbury, the son of a very Scottish father, Devon-based Drummond is in his rookie season on the European Tour and this is the first week that his month-old daughter has joined her parents on the road. But as yesterday was Drummond's 30th birthday, his mother-in-law offered to babysit for a couple of hours so he and his wife could enjoy their first peaceful meal for quite a while.
Haeggman is due to be an assistant to Bernhard Langer at this year's Ryder Cup, but ever since he won in Qatar in March he has scented a place in the team. Another Swede, Jesper Parnevik, yesterday made himself available for the match by rejoining the European Tour a few weeks after resigning his membership.
As in The Open at Royal St George's last summer, Nick Faldo has been pottering along to good effect. A 68 yesterday took him to nine under par. Unlike The Open, where he was high on the leaderboard on the final day before sliding back, he will not look at the scoreboards today. "It will be a day to set a target and go for it," Faldo said. "I'm getting old. I can't look at the leaderboards any more. I can't pronounce the names."
The 46-year-old has lost none of his focus on the course but when it comes to his eyes it is a different matter. This week he has been wearing contact lens for the first time and has been amazed at the detail he can now pick up on the greens. "I had no idea they were that bad until I had them tested last week," he said.
Laser surgery might be the next step but the thought of it brings out his squeamish side. Otherwise he is still physically strong, for which he is thankful given the state of Seve Ballesteros's back. "He's been an inspiration to the whole of Europe," Faldo said of Seve. "I hope he's rewarded with the accolades he deserves."
Missing three successive cuts for the first time in his career had left Faldo frustrated. If it could go wrong, it did. Getting back on to the familiar terrain of the West Course has been a tonic. "I enjoy myself out there. It's horses for courses. You have to play smart. The atmosphere out there is great and that's what I need at this stage of my career."
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