Yorkshireman Garbutt proves qualified success with a 68 - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Yorkshireman Garbutt proves qualified success with a 68

When he had a birdie at the 12th, Ian Garbutt was entitled to feel that he was on top of the world. His drive bounded down the parched fairway, and an immaculate chip to three feet set up a birdie three. The young Yorkshireman's name hit the top of the leaderboard at seven under par.

When he had a birdie at the 12th, Ian Garbutt was entitled to feel that he was on top of the world. His drive bounded down the parched fairway, and an immaculate chip to three feet set up a birdie three. The young Yorkshireman's name hit the top of the leaderboard at seven under par.

His visit to seventh heaven, of course, was short lived. He had his first bogey of the first round at the 13th where he took three putts. Having gone out in 31, he came home in 37. But he was still on the leaderboard, a stroke behind Tiger Woods.

"I would have taken a 68 before I went out," Garbutt said. "When I was seven under I might have expected a bit more but the wind was coming in off the left and it was a lot more difficult. I quite enjoyed it really. I was only nervous on the first tee, when they announced my name and you realise it's the Open at St Andrews in 2000. It doesn't get much better than that, does it?"

As an amateur, Garbutt played the Old Course in the St Andrews Links Trophy. In those days he carried his own bag. "I was 10 years younger and three stone lighter," he said. "The first time I played here I missed the cut by a mile. I didn't really like the course. I did not know where I was going. The next time I came I employed a local caddie. He showed me where to go and I quite liked it. It's one of those courses where you have to know where you're going. There's a certain way to play it."

For the last four years he has had the services of Martin Rowley, a caddie who has been around a bit. "It gets scary on Sunday afternoons," Rowley said, "not Thursdays."

Garbutt won the English amateur championship at Woodhall Spa in 1990, beating Gary Evans 7 and 6 in the final. He graduated from the Challenge Tour by finishing top of the order of merit in 1996 and his best finish since then is joint seventh in the Dutch Open.

An archetypal Yorkshireman, he was born in Doncaster, lives in Doncaster and would die for Doncaster Rovers Football Club. They are now a non-league club. Garbutt, on the other hand, is showing signs of joining the Premiership. Asked during a practice round who was going to win the 129th Open, Garbutt replied: "Who knows? This is golf."

On the eve of the championship, Garbutt attended a party hosted by the golf publishing company, EMAP. "I had a gallon and a half but I had plenty of time to recover," he said.

Invariably Garbutt has to endure the tortures of pre-qualifying for the Open and this one was no exception. He had a bogey at the 18th in the second round at Ladybank, which put him into a five-man play-off for three places. Garbutt got one of them with a birdie at the 18th on his revisit. "Experiences like that should stand you in good stead," he said. Yesterday, from the third hole to the sixth he could not put a foot wrong: birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie.

Nick Faldo is two strokes behind Garbutt following a 70. "It was just difficult to get the ball close to the hole," Faldo said. "It was as simple as that. I putted quite nicely to protect my score.

"Patience is the key here with the crowd and players on other greens. You're all set for a shot and all of a sudden a thousand people start stomping across your intended line of target."

When Faldo was on the 16th, Mark James was on the second, sharing one of St Andrews' double greens. They did not pass the time of day.

It seems that the spat between them, which developed from James' criticism of Faldo during and after last year's Ryder Cup, has worked in Faldo's favour.

"The support I've had over the Mark James issue has been amazing," Faldo said. "I'm taking home literally two bags full of mail. I want to thank everybody for their support. The issue is not dead. It has opened up a can of worms and it needs to be dealt with. The European Tour will have to step in, we've got to have a serious discussion and get it all sorted out."

Faldo, an Open specialist who won here in 1990, retired, inevitably, to the practice range after his two under par round. "I've worked hard on my swing and I need to keep working on it. I didn't feel as comfortable as I would have liked out there so I'll try a few little things and get it right for tomorrow. You still need that little bit of lady luck. On a links it's all very much in the lap of the Gods."

For a while yesterday it was Garbutt, rather than Faldo, who experienced the comfort of such a lap.

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