Australian Scott Strange played the second half of Celtic Manor's new 2010 Ryder Cup course in just 28 strokes yesterday to lead the Wales Open. The 31-year-old from Perth birdied all but two of the nine holes for a brilliant eight-under-par 63 which put him one ahead of Italy's Edoardo Molinari after a day that had begun with a 105-minute fog delay.
Open champion Padraig Harrington managed only a 70, while last week's PGA Championship winner Miguel Angel Jimenez struggled through 11 holes in eight over before withdrawing with a knee problem.
Strange's round began on the long 11th because of the lay-out of the course and, after grabbing a birdie at his second hole, he finished the inward half with five more in a row. After covering the front nine in 35 he then completed his day's work with a two on the 210-yard 10th.
The European Tour record for nine holes is 27 – five players have done that, including Robert Lee on two occasions – but Strange would not have been added to that list if he improved his score by one because placing was allowed on the wet fairways.
Former US amateur champion Molinari had a remarkable tale to tell after his 64. The career of the 27-year-old from Turin has been re-ignited by using a gumshield to ease a tendon problem in his left wrist.
"My dad is a dentist and he didn't believe it," said Molinari, who was recommended the shield by a member of the Milan FC medical team.
"Five days later there was no pain. He said the muscles down my left side were affected when I closed my mouth. It's making a huge difference. Before I was shooting really high numbers and for a week I could hardly lift a club. My father believes it now."
It looked as though Jimenez had suffered a major meltdown as he ran up three double bogeys. But the explanation for some shocking figures came when the Spaniard pulled out rather than risk aggravating his knee with the US Open only two weeks away. "I've been receiving treatment for the past two afternoons, but there was no point carrying on," he said.
Colin Montgomerie, who shot 69, has suggested the Ryder Cup be staged over four rather than three days. The course lay-out is the one on which the first cup match on Welsh soil will be staged, but the fog delay at the start of this week's tournament was a reminder of the problems Europe and America's players could face in October 2010.
Montgomerie said: "There's a river here and the temperature between rivers and land causes fog. There could be delays." Asked about switching to a four-day format as used in the Seve Trophy and Presidents Cup, the Scot said: "I thinkthe Seve Trophy could show us a thing or two, where we have the two fourballs on Thursday and Friday [one series each day] and it would also give more opportunity for more players to play."