Vaughan overcomes knee injury to share lead

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The Independent Online

The American veteran Bruce Vaughan took a share of the lead at the South African Open yesterday despite only recently recovering from the latest in a series of six reconstructive operations on a knee injury.

The American veteran Bruce Vaughan took a share of the lead at the South African Open yesterday despite only recently recovering from the latest in a series of six reconstructive operations on a knee injury.

Vaughan, who shares the lead with the South African Titch Moore after a first-round 65, prospered in sweltering conditions on a course with a lot of narrow fairways. He and Moore are a shot clear of another South African, Tjaart van der Walt.

"My knee isn't good at all," Vaughan said after his round. "The last time I played when I walked 18 holes was at Leopard Creek in the [Sunshine Tour's] Tour Championship last February. I had six knee surgeries in less than two years and the last time they inset the bone, they told me everything looked good but this is my last chance - if everything doesn't hold then you're going to have a total bad knee.

"I went back to playing in September but had to play in little three-day tournaments where I had to take a cart and that was it. I played a couple of pro-ams but nothing much else.

"I am more shocked than anybody else being up there, because the only thing I have been able to do at home is putt. But I putted pretty well today so I guess it paid off," he added.

Malcolm Mackenzie, of Britain, outshone some of the bigger names in the field to compile a four-under-par 68 and share third place. Mackenzie, from Barrow-upon-Soar, is playing on a medical exemption after shoulder surgery at the end of 2003.

It was a very different day, however, for the Ryder Cup player Darren Clarke. The Irishman threatened the leaderboard early on by following a bogey on the 10th - his first hole - with three birdies to turn at two under. But he found the course a lot tougher when he moved to the front nine. After dropping a shot on the first, Clarke scrambled three pars. Finding the narrow fairways difficult to negotiate, he dropped another shot on five and seven before winning a stroke back on the par-five eighth. He finished with a 72.

Vaughan's card did not reflect his injury problems or lack of preparation. He had a bogey on the first, but took the shot back with a 20-foot putt for a birdie on the second.

From there his putter was on fire, with a 10-footer on the sixth, and a 20-footer on the seventh to add to a chip-in on the eighth from 10 feet for a birdie.

On the back nine he took four more birdies, including two extraordinary putts on the 16th and 17th of 20 and 25 feet respectively.

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