O'Meara's road rage

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On a day like yesterday, the sun shining and a modest breeze by St Andrews standards, the Old Course can seem defenceless. It is not: it has the 17th, or Road Hole. No respecter of reputations, the hole catches the great and the good. Mark O'Meara and Gaurav Ghei both suffered on the opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Cup.

O'Meara was attempting to break the Old Course record and was 10 under par on the 17th tee. Curtis Strange's mark of 62, made during the 1987 Dunhill Cup, still stands. Ghei was hoping for a major upset as India, on their first appearance in the competition, were only narrowly beaten by Zimbabwe 2-1.

"We have learned from past experience that you can't take any team lightly," O'Meara said. America lost to France in 1990. In his match with Italy's Costantino Rocca, O'Meara had a par at the first, then rolled in eight consecutive birdies, equalling the European record and setting a new mark of 28 for the front nine of the Old Course.

Twice he holed from over 40 feet. His 20-footer at the 10th came up just short, but he also birdied the 11th and 12th. "Needless to say, I made my share of putts," O'Meara said.

But at 17, his five-iron approach trickled over the green on to the stone path behind. Putting, he did not make it up the bank. His next putt finished six feet past and he missed that to record a double-bogey six. "That hole has got me a few times," O'Meara said. "But once I was two behind Richard Zokol, made a bogey and came out one ahead.

"I knew I had thrown away a chance of breaking Curtis's rec- ord and, believe me, I was thinking about it all the back nine." His 11th birdie at the last gave the 39-year-old American a 63 and a seven- shot win over Rocca.

Steve Stricker, playing his first competitive round on the Old Course, shot a 68 to beat Silvio Grappasonni by seven. But Emanuele Canonica, a big hitter in the Daly mould, had a birdie at the second extra hole to beat Phil Mickelson, world ranked 573 places above the Italian. Today America play England, who lead Group One as Barry Lane, Lee Westwood and Jonathan Lomas had the day's only 3-0 whitewash, against Spain.

Colin Montgomerie lost to Jarmo Sandelin as the defending champions, Scotland, went down 2-1 to Sweden. "We are not despondent, we just need to beat India and Zimbabwe 3-0," Monty said. This may not be straightforward. Ali Sher proved India's first winner at the Old Course, edging Tony Johnstone, the Zimbabwean captain, by a stroke.

Nick Price won by a similar margin over Jeev Singh and Ghei's match with Mark McNulty was equally close until the 17th. Ghei, the pro at Delhi Golf Club where his team-mates also play, found the Road Hole bunker with his second, then finished on the road. He ended up making a 15-footer for a six. "It is a great hole," Ghei said.

All the Indian team had played the Old Course before, and their manager, Vikramjit Singh, is a member of the Royal & Ancient. "We knew if we played our game, we would give them a good fight," Ghei said. "We had a good chance of causing a major upset. Everything about this place is awesome, apart from the weather."