Pins needle lesser lights

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The Independent Online
FINDING Loch Lomond on the doorstep of Glasgow is a bit like discovering the Mona Lisa in Steptoe's back yard. An enigmatic smile has been playing over the faces of the participants in the inaugural World Invitational here, which has a grand name to match the venue. The cast, however, is not doing justice to the stage.

Lyle Anderson, the American property developer who bought the course here after it stagnated in the recession in the early nineties, is the sort of man who is used to getting his way. He invited the world's best to play in his tournament and most of them refused.

The principal reason is that, having spent a fortune on the place, putting up prize money of pounds 750,000 and going ahead without a major sponsor, and accepting a loss on the first year, he would not pay appearance money. Other sponsors should take note. Hardly any of the leading Americans are here but somehow Anderson persuaded Nick Faldo, who normally does not appear in Europe for less than the price of a decent semi-detached, to pitch up for the event. The living is easy, the fish are jumping and Faldo packed his rods with his clubs.

Apart from anything else he had heard stories about the Tom Weiskopf- designed course and when he arrived described it as the best layout in Britain. By a country mile.

Yesterday Faldo was hanging on to the leaderboard but his chances of landing the big one today are as slim as an Arbroath smokie.

Faldo shot 73, two over for the day, one over for the championship and caught just one birdie. He must enter the final round seven strokes behind the joint leaders Thomas Bjorn and Jean Van de Velde.

The beleaguered executives of the European Tour must be coming to the conclusion that they cannot win. They were still reeling from the repercussions of the disaster of the unplayable greens in the British Masters at Collingtree last month and when they arrived here they probably thought their troubles would be over. They thought wrong.

After the second round, when the scores rocketed to such a degree that the halfway cut was made at nine over par, a number of the players, including Gordon Sherry, the touring pro for Loch Lomond, accused the tournament officials of being distantly related to the Marquis de Sade.

From the tone of their criticism you might have surmised that the flags had been placed in the middle of the loch instead of actually on the greens. "Ridiculous", "a joke", "unplayable" were some of the kinder remarks. They paid no attention to the fact that the course had been starved of rain and that the wind, which greenkeepers cannot control, gusted to a strength to influence the flight of a golf ball.

The suspicion is that the criticism is part of an ongoing campaign against the more inflexible tournament directors who do not necessarily think that every event should be won at 20 under par. What was interesting is that the players who are of sufficient stature to demand appearance money did not join in the condemnation of the pin placements.

Colin Montgomerie said that if they wanted soft conditions they should go and play in Asia. Faldo remarked that it was "not meant to be easy" but yesterday, when the wind had dropped, it was easier. Eamonn Darcy, who has a swing that would normally be associated with a fairground, shot 66 - a stroke outside the record established by the Frenchman Van de Velde in the tumultuous second round. "If we played on courses like this every week we would be flying," Darcy said. "A 67 in the last round and I could win."

That is a matter for debate. Darcy is on level par for the tournament, six strokes behind Van de Velde and the Dane, Bjorn. Van de Velde had a solitary bogey in a round of 67 while Bjorn marred his extraordinary progress with a double-bogey six at the 16th. He had a 68 with five birdies in eight holes from the seventh and is playing as if to the manor born.

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