Tardy Torrance races to first tee

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The Independent Online

Sam Torrance ambled on to the practice putting green in preparation for the first round of the Wales Open here in Newport when Jennie Janes, the tournament secretary, reminded him that, if he did not get his skates on, he would miss his tee time.

"She was screaming at me that I had 40 seconds to get to the first tee," said Europe's Ryder Cup captain who was due off at 1.10pm. "I did a Colin Jackson over the fence, ran to the tee and made it with about 10 seconds to spare."

Had Torrance been later, he would have had a two-stroke penalty or even been disqualified. As it was, he proceeded to follow route 66, and at six under par is only a stroke behind the South African James Kingston and Australia's Richard Green.

"It was ridiculous," Torrance added. "My start time in the pro-am was 1.30pm, and I just had it in my mind that that was my tee time in the first round. My caddie thought the same. I was completely shocked. I had to run to the tee and my heart was thumping. It is the only time in my career that I've ever stood on the first tee hoping to see people in front of me."

Torrance had a flawless round, going out in 33, coming home in 33. "I've been on a health diet for two years, and I'm in pretty good shape," he said. He needed to be.

Few South Africans, let alone modern day Europeans, have drunk from the old silver claret jug at the end of an Open Championship, but Kingston is an exception. In this game, sometimes it is not what you know, but who you know.

At Muirfield last month, Kingston had an incredible journey, with stops from the sublime to the ridiculous and back. The leading qualifier at Gullane, Kingston bombed in the Open, missing the halfway cut by some distance.

Instead of returning home, he stayed at Muirfield, and followed the fortunes of Ernie Els, a contemporary, of sorts, in South Africa. "I was there," Kingston said, sounding like a Rustenberg version of Max Boyce. "I walked around with Ernie, supported him, and also had a few sips out of the claret jug. I've played a lot of amateur and professional golf with him. It was wonderful to see him win that week."

There is a world of difference between Els and Kingston. The latter has won tournaments in Asia but is not a household name in either Kingston, Surrey, or Kingston, Jamaica. Having received an invitation to the Wales Open, he led with a 65 in the first round, seven under, until being caught by Green. Kingston's timing was immaculate. As he walked off the 18th with a new course record – seven birdies, no bogeys – Celtic Manor was hit by heavy rain. Torrance's timing was not nearly as impressive, although his scoring was.