Hole in one helps Faldo warm to his task

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Nick Faldo was already on a nice little earner, in terms of appearance money, for playing in the Benson and Hedges International and after he won the Masters last month a clause about a "performance related bonus" came into play. Yesterday the sponsors might have felt that the largesse was money well spent when Faldo transformed his round with a hole in one.

Such strokes of fortune are usually rewarded with a little gift, like a car or a cruise for two but not this week. In any case, Faldo is not short of a car or two and what the players were in need of yesterday was a touch of global warming. "Horrible conditions," Colin Montgomerie said. "Horrible. They really are as bad as you find in England.''

Monty, who has shed several stones and has lost a layer or two of insulation, kept repeating himself, just in case you didn't believe him. "It was frozen out there. Frozen. It's so so cold and the wind chill factor makes it freezing." No doubt about it. Even the teeth of brass monkeys were chattering.

Faldo was struggling at two over par and had just bogeyed the 12th. The honour on the 13th tee went to Diego Borrego, followed by Padraig Harrington with Faldo bringing up the rear. The 13th, which has a lake in front of the green, measures 171 yards and Borrego and Harrington both hit a seven iron. In his career Faldo had had six holes in one, all of them with a six iron. Yesterday his seventh came with a seven iron.

"I've not won a bloody thing with any of them," Faldo said. "Thanks Benson and Hedges." When an amateur gets an ace, the form is to buy drinks all round in the clubhouse. Asked if he would observe the tradition, Faldo replied: "Bollocks." In fact, he was pretty chuffed with his performance. He followed the hole in one with birdies at the 17th and 18th for a round of 70, two under par and two behind Miguel Angel Jimenez.

"My hands started to go from the eighth," Faldo, who wore ski gloves in between shots, said. "I couldn't feel where my right hand was on impact. That was a great score on a day like that. The course is demanding and playing very long. I imagine it's an absolute nightmare for the amateurs." It is hardly a bed of roses for the professionals.

The 17th, a par five of 585 yards, can be played conservatively, by following the fairway around the lake, or can be attacked with an approach shot over the water. It yielded every score from an eagle three to a sextuple bogey 11. Anders Forsbrand signed for a six there instead of an eight and was disqualified. Faldo played it with a driver, a two iron over the lake to just short of the green and a chip to two feet. It was 85 degrees when he left America; here it was about 55 degrees colder.

The B & H used to be held at Fulford in York where, in 1988, Peter Baker defeated Faldo in a sudden death play-off. Baker wore a tan and a short- sleeved shirt. Yesterday he looked like Captain Oates. Leaving the locker room he could have muttered: "I'm going outside and I might be some time.''

Six years ago the event moved from York to St Mellion which "offered the moderate climate required together with picturesque scenery and West Country charm". The date was also changed, to early May, and everybody froze. St Mellion is designed by Jack Nicklaus but looks like something out of a Daphne du Maurier novel. When the wind blew, as it always did, only a few players broke par.

After six years they moved the event to The Oxfordshire, a new course designed by another American, Rees Jones, and as far removed from St Mellion as Oxfordshire clay from Cornish cream. Yesterday only a small group of players broke par and it included Bernhard Langer. Five years ago the German won the B & H and was the only player to finish under par at St Mellion which he described as a "man's course." Despite his 69 here, even Langer found The Oxfordshire playing a country mile too far.

As for Monty, he'd been onto the Met Office and the news was not good. "it's going to get colder," he said. "Colder.''

Scores, Sporting Digest, page 27

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