Wayward Seve heads for desert

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The Independent Online
Golf: When Phillip Price sat down to lunch at the Royal Dar Es Salam clubhouse yesterday he was advised by Peter Hedblom to watch what he ate. Price, a lad from Pontypridd, was not about to plump for the sheep's eyes and in any case he needs no advice from Hedblom on self-preservation.

Price was in the running in a tournament in Sun City, South Africa last month - lying fourth, three shots off the lead - when he was confined to bed with food poisoning. Yesterday he had the stomach for the formidable course here, scoring 68 in the second round of the Moroccan Open and at the halfway stage he has only Hedblom in front of him.

While Seve Ballesteros marked his return to championship golf after a five-month break with a display that suggested his sabbatical was not long enough, Hedblom opened up a useful lead. He shot 67 and, Price apart, nobody could live with him. In the context of the scoring, Hedblom seems to have been playing a different course to the rest. Hedblom is at nine under par, Price five under and a thinly populated leaderboard is completed by Alexander Cejka, the Volvo Masters champion, who is on three under and Santiago Luna on two under.

The only thing that can be said in mitigation for Ballesteros, who finished at 13 over par with rounds of 78 and 79, is that it rained on his parade but by then the wheels had come off his float. If he wasn't in the trees, he was in the water and if he wasn't in the water, he was in a bunker. Ballesteros is not just hitting it all over the souk but this marathon course has also cruelly exposed his lack of power, lack of timing. At the ninth, for example, a par three of 189 yards to an island green, he came up five yards short of terra firma and his ball was sleeping with the fishes. After taking a penalty drop he recorded a double bogey five to add to a sequence of 6,5,5,5.

"I have no confidence," he said for the umpteenth time this week. "The ball was coming off the toe of the club or the heel. I can't find the middle. It may take a few weeks, it may take months. I don't know. Patience is not my strongest point." He went to the turn in 43 and came back in 36. "My goal," he said, "was to break 80. That's the positive thing." Ballesteros, who missed the halfway cut by a mile, took the road out of Morocco and headed straight for the practice ground in Dubai where he will play in the Desert Classic next week. "I would like to apologise to the people of Morocco," he said."This is one of the best courses in the world."

Hedblom, the son of a golf professional from Gavle, had a brilliant finish with five birdies in the last six holes. At the 15th he hooked his drive but his ball rebounded from a tree on to the fairway, from where he hit a 3-iron nearly 200 yards to within five feet of the flag and emerged with a birdie three. That seemed to give the Swede the taste and he came home in 31.

Hedblom, twice a runner-up on the European Tour, has never led at the halfway stage. Last season his progress was impeded when his friends decided to celebrate his 25th birthday in somewhat unorthodox fashion. They put a blindfold on him and led him into a boxing ring where he had to go three rounds with a Swedish champion. Then he had to walk home wearing the full regalia of a fireman's uniform including oxygen mask. This, apparently, is considered a fun night out in Gavle. Hedblom bruised a rib and then caught pneumonia. "I'm not afraid of getting injured," said Hedblom, who used to play ice hockey. "I like to do things. You have to have fun. Tomorrow you could get hit by a car. Life's too short."

Ian Woosnam, who would probably sympathise with such a philosophy, holed a 60-yard wedge shot for an eagle three at the eighth in a round of 73. Woosnam, the leader of the Order of Merit after winning the first two events of the season, the Johnnie Walker Classic and the Heineken Classic, is at one over par on 145. It is not exactly a scintillating score but Ballesteros would have happily settled for it.

MOROCCAN OPEN (Rabat) (GB or Irl unless stated): 135 P Hedblom (Swe) 68 67. 139 P Price 71 68. 141 A Cejka (Ger) 70 71. 142 S Luna (Sp) 73 69. 143 J McHenry 70 73; M Besanceney (Fr) 72 71; R Goosen (SA) 71 72, P Mitchell 71 72; R Russell 69 74; T Johnstone (Zimb) 70 73; P Harrington 72 71; T Planchin (Fr) 74 69; W Westner (SA) 71 72; M Tunnicliff 71 72. 144 A Collison 72 72; S Bottomley 72 72; P Affleck 75 69; M Farry (Fr) 69 75; M Mouland 71 73. 145 H P Thuel (Ger) 75 70; D Clarke 72 73; I Woosnam 72 73; A Forsbrand (Swe) 71 74; M Gronberg (Swe) 75 70; D A Russell 74 71; C Rocca (It) 70 75; S Grappasonni (It) 72 73; S Ames (Trin) 75 70. 146 R Coles 70 76; R Claydon 72 74; F Howley 72 74; P Nyman 73 73; D J Russell 72 74; G J Brand 73 73; A Binaghi (It) 76 70; S Torrance 73 73; E Romero (Arg) 72 74. Selected: 148 J M Canizares (Sp) 75 73. 157 S Ballesteros (Sp) 78 79.