Storm warnings as Ballesteros qualifies

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The Independent Online

Storms on the course and off it have played havoc with the Madeira Island Open – and in the middle of them all was the towering figure of Seve Ballesteros, who made only his fourth cut in two years.

A tempestuous row with tournament officials on Friday had left the Spanish legend in a fury and convinced that a second round of 75 had blown his chances of qualifying. But the wind continued to howl as the rest of the field struggled to complete their second rounds yesterday, and in the end Ballesteros made it through to the third round with a shot to spare.

Ballesteros's volcanic temper erupted on Friday when he was timed by referees for slow play. He claimed that one official had said: "I don't care" when the five-time Major winner had tried to explain why his three-ball had lost 36 minutes in nine holes. Ballesteros demanded to speak to the press to put his case, and then had a furious argument with the tournament director in the car park.

Almost lost in the furore, Spain's Jesus Maria Arruti led at the half-way point on four under par, one shot ahead of England's Andrew Marshall, Wales's Bradley Dredge and the Swedes Henrik Stenson and Fredrik Andersson.

Meanwhile, Laura Davies mounted a second-round charge with a 66 to lie just two shots behind a quartet of leaders headed by world No 1 Annika Sorenstam at the halfway stage of the Safeway Ping tournament in Phoenix, Arizona.

Davies, who opened with a 69, eagled her opening hole – the long 10th – and ended her round with the last of her five birdies for a nine-under total of 135, setting her sights on her fifth victory over the Moon Valley course.

Sorenstam, who won an astonishing 13 times last year, closed out her round with three birdies for a 66 and shared the lead with the next two players in the world rankings, South Korea's Se Ri Pak and Australia's Karrie Webb, plus Patricia Meunier Lebouc, from France.

Davies, who won the title four years in a row from 1994-97, had only 25 putts, while she proved that her long game is also on song with that opening eagle three. She hit two drivers on the 534-yard hole before holing a relatively straightforward putt.

"I'm very pleased with just two behind at this stage," said the winner of last month's Australian Ladies' Masters. "I reckon 16 to 20 under will be needed to win the tournament. I'm nine under and I'll probably need nine under again over the weekend."

The supremely confident Sorenstam, who shot an historic 59 over the same course in winning the title two years ago, cruised through the opening nine in one-under 35 before stepping up a gear.

She birdied the 10th, the 13th and then the final three holes for an inward 31 to ram home her superiority in her first event of the new season.

Sorenstam, who has accepted an invitation to play in the Bank of America Colonial on the men's PGA Tour in May, suggested: "This season is already going a little better than I expected, and not just golf-wise. Mentally and physically I am feeling very, very strong."

Meunier Lebouc, who broke through with a first win in the US last year, had a 66, while Webb fired a 67 and Pak had a 69.

Lebouc admitted she was in great company. "It's great to be up there with the world's top three," said the 30-year-old. "I love playing in the final group, facing the pressure. That's what makes golf fun."