reports from Collingtree Park
The good news for Bernard Gallacher, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, is that Sam Torrance and Mark James are at the top of the leaderboard at the half-way stage of the British Masters. The bad is that four of his players missed the cut here yesterday.
Of the disgruntled, Ian Woosnam and David Gilford had cause to be the most gruntled. Gilford had an eagle three at the last hole, improved on his first round by five strokes and missed the cut, which was made at one under par, by two. Woosnam, a replacement in the Ryder Cup team for Jose Maria Olazabal, had a good chance of surviving to today's third round but his putting is still dire.
He had four birdies in eight holes from the ninth but at the par-five 18th, where he could have got out of jail, he threw away the key. Nine feet from the flag in three strokes, he took a further three. He put his first putt about 18 inches past the hole and missed the return. Woosnam then casually knocked the ball in one-handed and that was a better putt than the previous one. The result was a bogey six.
Philip Walton, who will accompany Woosnam and Co on Concorde for New York on Monday, had an even more horrendous time at the 18th, taking a quadruple-bogey nine in a round of 77. The other Concorde passenger to miss the cut was Per-Ulrik Johansson. Walton drove into water, took a penalty drop and in the process of hitting his third shot he realised he had grounded his club in front of the red hazard line. That cost him another two penalty shots.
Nine of Europe's team were here and five will make some pocket money this weekend for the trip to the Big Apple: Torrance, James, Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie and Howard Clark. Ballesteros, who shot another 69 to stand at six under par, five behind Torrance, thinks that this course, designed by Johnny Miller in the middle of a housing estate off the Northampton turn off on the M1, is "good".
Darren Clarke, who was on the fringe of qualifying for the Ryder Cup, thought it was "absolute crap". The Northern Irishman had a 73 in the first round and on Thursday evening he said: "If I'd shot 65 I would still say it was absolute crap." Yesterday he set a course record of 62 that included two eagles. Ten under for the day, he is nine under for the tournament and only two strokes off the lead.
That is held by Torrance who, at the age of 42, is having a ball. He shot 66 to stand at 11 under, a stroke in front of James and Santiago Luna. Torrance is literally over the moon. Since the Irish Open 10 weeks ago, Torrance is 91 under par; Montgomerie, who heads him in the Order of Merit, is 96 under.
Yesterday Monty was playing in the group directly in front of Torrance. At the 14th Montgomerie chipped in for an eagle three; then Torrance did the same. Torrance has been working particularly hard on his short game but he is also driving the ball long and straight. It seems as if he could leave half the clubs out of his bag. He tends to go: driver (or three- wood), nine-iron (or wedge), putter. "As long as I don't leave my game on Concorde I'll be all right," he said.
James, who partnered Torrance in the foursomes in the Ryder Cup at The Belfry two years ago (they lost to Lanny Wadkins and Corey Pavin), had a 67 that included an eagle three and five other threes on the front nine.
Talking about the pressure of the Ryder Cup, James, a year younger than Torrance, said: "It depends on the player. Some may be nervous now. I am not really one that feels nervous. I have had trouble getting the adrenalin flowing. That's my biggest problem, getting pumped up. I've no idea how you do that. I'll have to speak to the doctor.
"The best thing is that if you hit bad shots you get angry about it. That helps because if you have no reaction, nothing is happening and you go on feeling flat forever, round after round." How, James was asked, do you make yourself angry? "Stop asking me these question's for Christ's sake!" The reply had a decibel level considerably higher than that of the most irate sergeant major.
Finally, spare a thought for the young American Alan Bratton. He turned professional the day after playing for the defeated US Walker Cup team in Porthcawl and has yet to make a penny. Yesterday he shot 71 and missed the cut by a stroke.
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