Unkind cut for Langer

Golf: Volvo PGA Championship: A record run ends for Germany's Meistermind while Faldo manages to bag a share of the lead
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The Independent Online
While Nick Faldo continued his quest for a second US Masters and Volvo PGA Championship double, Europe's Meistermind was passing out at Wentworth. Faldo, with the aid of a Swedish referee and a birdie, birdie finish, is tied with Costantino Rocca and Mark McNulty at eight under par. Bernhard Langer, who likes to finish what he starts, shot a 74 to be three over par and saw his record run of having made 68 consecutive cuts on the European tour come to an end.

Faldo is finishing off his rounds in fine style this week, having eagled the last on Friday, but faced disaster at the 17th yesterday. One under for the day, after a bogey at the 16th and seemingly struggling to recapture his opening-day form, Faldo hooked his three-wood second shot which hit an out-of-bounds stake and rebounded on to a spectator's plastic bag.

Having marked the position of the ball, Faldo thought he should replace it, but a Swedish rules official, Thomas Waldenstedt, told him to take a drop.

"If you are wrong, you can't be overruled can you?" Faldo asked. Had Faldo proceeded, it would have cost him a two-shot penalty. Under rule 24-1, Waldenstedt was right, but twice Faldo dropped the ball and it rolled marginally nearer the hole. The referee initially said the ball was in play each time. "Jeepers, you are making me nervous," Faldo said.

Having finally placed the ball, Faldo pitched to six feet and holed for a birdie, and then reached the par-five 18th in two for a 69. "I was wrong," a relieved Faldo said of the rules incident. "I had got it confused and he saved me a couple of shots. It was a great finish. I thought I was going to be out of bounds at 17 and I could have been well back. I never got any momentum going and couldn't hole a putt."

Langer was presented with a pair of golden Adidas shoes on Thursday to mark his achievements in the game, which include two Masters green jackets. The effect has not been in keeping with that which used to inspire the schoolboy's comic-book hero in Billy's Boots. "It had to happen sooner or later," the 38-year-old German said. "It is sad that it happened this week because it is one of our greatest tournaments and it's a course I like very much."

Langer's successful run started at Wentworth during the 1991 PGA - having bogeyed the last to miss out at the Italian Open - and he broke Neil Coles's then record of 56 successive cuts made at Wentworth last year. Langer celebrated by going on to win the title for the third time.

It is a remarkable stretch of golf, displaying the reliability of this week's sponsor's product. When his long game has been awry, his short game has got him out of trouble. In those 68 tournaments, Langer has won nine times, and, incredibly, finished in the top 10 on 36 occasions. He has played 272 rounds, during which he has hit 18,961 shots, at a stroke average of 69.70 per round, was 499 under par and earned pounds 2,013,394.

Langer missed two cuts in America earlier in the year and there have been reports of the German again battling the yips, the dreaded disease that he has overcome three times. On Friday, Langer only took 26 putts but, in a round of 73, that indicated problems in the game from tee-to- green. "My swing did not feel very good," he said. "I hit a few bad shots, a few bad chips and a few bad putts. It multiplied and multiplied."

After starting with three bogeys, Langer had picked up three birdies by the time he got to the 15th tee. "I fought back well and with good tee shots at the 15th and 16th, and birdie chances at the last two, I thought I might even finish in the red figures," Langer said. He missed the green at the 15th, failed to convert a chance at the next, three-putted 17 from 50 feet and could only par the last. Langer feared the worst and departed with his Ryder Cup colleagues Seve Ballesteros, Per-Ulrik Johansson and Howard Clark, who returned a 10-bogey 82.

Conditions, however, were much improved with sunshine and only a light breeze offering the best day to play golf since the tour arrived in Britain. Even Colin Montgomerie, who like Langer started at one over, was in the red figures with a 68 to be three under. But Monty's mood was no cheerier. "Frustrating. Very frustrating," he repeated. "I'm playing tired golf. 68 is nothing special, almost level par. I threw away too many shots. Although anything is possible, I expect Nick to have a commanding lead at the end of the day." But there, Montgomerie was wrong.