Nobilo has eye for main chance

Volvo PGA Championship: New Zealander's vision of glory is unimpaired as Ballesteros bounces back to survive the cut
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The Independent Online
BLINKING Frank Nobilo guides the Volvo PGA field into the third round at Wentworth's Burma Road course today with his sight affected by an infection that brings tears to his right eye every time he stands over the ball. But he remained focused enough to take a one-shot lead on a gruelling day when none of the established stars managed to improve their overnight positions.

Nobilo, who has been suffering from the condition for over a week, is wearing dark glasses between each shot and spent last night with a cold compress on the dark and bleary eye. The New Zealander's 68 was beaten by only three players, including Gary Orr, who was about the only player to get his eye in on greens that were still hard despite the early-morning rain.

Orr shares second spot with Bristol's Andrew Sherborne, who teed off in pouring rain at 7.0am. Philip Walton kept Irish hopes alive, sharing third place with Sven Struver of Germany, and if the top of the leaderboard is less than star-sprinkled it at least set a standard for courageous achievement that no one else could match - unless you count Seve Ballesteros's fight against missing the cut.

He looked certain to join Ian Woosnam in an ignominous early exit from the tournamant when he was three over with two to play. With typical panache, he birdied the last two holes to reach safety and then, again typically, criticised officials who had twice warned his group for slow play.

"I have played five times in Europe and have been warned in all five," Ballesteros said. "I have played four times in the US and nothing happened."

For the rest, the proceedings were dominated by a debate on the coaching abilities of David Leadbetter, famous for being Nick Faldo's guru. Leadbetter is available for consultation to anyone, and Orr readily offered the information that it was a half-hour session with the coach earlier in the week that helped to produce yesterday's best score. "He spotted that my arms were a bit too tight at the address and the tip has worked," Orr said.

Leadbetter's name was mentioned in a less complimentary fashion by Orr's fellow Scot, Colin Montgomerie, whose round was not to his liking. Unlike Orr, Montgomerie can't hole a sausage at the moment. Earlier in the week Leadbetter had critcised Montgomerie for being too fat. "Colin should shed some weight," he said. "He must get fitter". The Scot grumpily replied that he may be a stone or two overweight but that it had never hindered him and he had no dieting plans in mind. That should have been the end of the matter, but yesterday, after moaning how he had not holed a 15- feet putt for two months, Montgomerie asked: "Did he say I was too fat to putt?"

Then, probably rembering that Leadbetter is on the skinny side of svelte, he added: "Tell him to get a good feed. He needs it."

This tetchy retort might have been the end of it, but enter Faldo after a round that brought him back to where he started from. At five under par he is still well in touch and is short of nothing but a few putts. Since he has spent 10 years under Leadbetter and is Montgomerie's Ryder Cup partner he was, naturally, asked for his opinion. With a touch of masterly diplomacy, he said: "I think Led is a genius the way he spots things." And Monty? "I like my partners cuddly," he said.

Perhaps the second round will be better remembered as the one in which Bernhard Langer broke the European Tour record for consistency on a day when the rain, the wind and the bouncy greens encouraged erratic play. Langer himself fell victim to the tricks of the course but even completing the round in one over par did not prevent him making his 57th successive cut.

The last time he missed a cut was at the Italian Open in 1991, when a bad back caused his withdrawal before the second round was complete.

The Tour counted that as a miss but, with typical modesty, Langer said that he might have missed it anyhow. Since that day, however, he has steadily overhauled Neil Coles' old record despite illness, injury, swing changes and form-shifts.

"I enter tournaments to win them, not just to miss the cut," Langer said, but it is still a considerable feat to go four years without having to get an early flight home. The German was even prepared to reveal the secrets of golfing consistency: "Good technique, good short game, mental strength, good preparation, good course management, good fitness and health and good family support," he said.

There are many of us who would consider ourselves fortunate to have any one of those attributes. Certainly, Ian Woosnam could have done with a few to help him avoid a record that inflicted a fate of painful contrast to that of Langer. The Welshman missed his second successive cut for the first time in nine years, flopping out of the tournament with a nine-over- par total of 153 that left him disconsolate.

Langer, at four under, is still in contention, but the tournament needs a few of his calibre to get a move on today. Otherwise the brave Nobilo will continue to feel his way out in front - a case of the partially blind leading the largely bland.