Seve mixes it as Mason rises

Spaniard puts a spanner in the works with a broadside at the European Tour while record round fires up a Briton
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The Independent Online
A SPECTACULAR double fracture of the St Mellion course record by Costantino Rocca (64) and Carl Mason (63) hauled back the faltering leader Peter O'Malley to guarantee a stirring climax in today's final round of the Benson and Hedges International Open - and nothing less would have snatched the spotlight away from Seve Ballesteros.

Both on and off the course, Ballesteros threatened to dominate the day's proceedings. His first act was to gain six shots from the first nine holes. His second was to fling them far and wide around the sculptured Cornish countryside like a farmer scattering seed. To the open-mouthed wonder of a large, neck-craning gallery, he was out in 30 and back in 40 without a dull moment in sight.

To further satisfy his appetite for unfettered adventure, he then laid about the European Tour that, in his opinion, had brought this tournament to the tough St Mellion course at least three weeks too soon - and that wasn't the end of his complaints about a Tour that has just announced it will encompass Australia in its march across the world next year.

"There is no point in calling it the European Tour," he said. "Just change the name and call it the World Tour. I am very much against it. I would go for just 30 tournaments instead of 38. Thirty is plenty. I would have them just in Europe and make them nice and solid on very good courses and this will ensure most of the top players will stay in Europe."

Although Ballesteros's Ryder Cup team-mate Mark James, who is chairman of the Tour's Tournament Committee, agreed that he might have a point, other officials will not be happy at the Spaniard's views. They pride themselves on the advances they have made to provide a schedule that provides a stream of playing and earning opportunities for all the 135 regular Tour players. Ballesteros would maintain the wage potential of the lesser lights by beefing up the prize-money in the subsidiary Challenge League and have promotion and relegation for the top 25 in the league and the bottom 25 on the regular Tour.

These were not spontaneous comments and he has obviously put considerable thought into his ideas. "This is constructive criticism," he maintained. "I do not say everything is bad. They have done a lot of good things, but this is my personal opinion. Maybe I'm wrong. I've been wrong many times. Most of the time I've been right."

Seve's Tour would last from around the beginning of March until October and would keep away from these islands until the weather gets kinder. "I would never play a golf tournament in England until the first week of June," he added. "This has been proved over the past 50 years."

Ironically, the weather was much less wicked yesterday than it had been over the first two days. The crisp and sunny Cornish day offered better scores to help the 41-year-old Mason and Italy's Rocca to bring in the excellent cards that coincided with a late failure by the Australian leader O'Malley to keep his runaway lead.

Rocca's 64 would have been a new course record had Mason not beaten him into the clubhouse with a stunning 63 that included two eagles and a birdie chip-in on the back nine. They are both within two shots of O'Malley, who started and finished in such unsteady fashion that the race is wide open again on a course built for treachery.

Colin Montgomerie fell back from serious contention with a 75 but James gained a shot to stay well in sight of O'Malley, who dreads the finishing holes that stripped three shots off his lead yesterday.

Ballesteros himself thought he might be in a position to challenge the record when he set off among the early starters. He birdied the first three holes with very accurate approach shots and holed long putts on the fifth and ninth to reach the turn in 30, the best outward score of the day.

As the bulk of the day's crowd began to arrive around 10am, they took one look at the leader board and rushed for the far side of the course to catch sight of Ballesteros. Alas, many of them were just in time to see him crash to a triple bogey on the 13th, to which he added bogeys on the 16th and 17th.

"Three bad shots cost me six strokes," he complained. Some might think he scored enough direct hits for one day.