Golf: Frost cool in the darkness

Paul Trow,Johannesburg
Sunday 23 February 1997 00:02 GMT
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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David Frost defied fading light to open up a three-shot lead in the Alfred Dunhill PGA Championship last night after lightning disrupted a tournament in South Africa for the third successive weekend.

After an hour's delay the 27-year-old South African returned a 66 to finish on 198, 18 under par, but afterwards expressed his disappointment at not holding a larger advantage over his compatriot Retief Goosen, the overnight leader, and Japan's Katsuyoshi Tomori.

"I three-putted the 14th and bogeyed the next after falling for a sucker pin position. I could have dropped another shot at the last after a bad drive," said Frost. "Luckily, though, I nearly holed a sand wedge from a hundred yards to retrieve a par. I feel I should have a five-shot lead, but, then again, no lead is big enough. Everybody knows you're going to get afternoon thunderstorms here, so I'm disappointed our tee times weren't earlier to avoid us having to finish in the dark or even tomorrow morning."

After his seven-birdie round, Frost handed over 600 pairs of second-hand golf shoes to Martin Pinto, director of South Africa's golf development trust, which he had collected from his fellow pros on the US tour. "The players' response was unbelievable," said Frost. "I got five pairs from Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer sent an autographed pair. Eventually I had to tell the guys not to send me any more because I had so many."

The shoes will be given to caddies, young players and under-privileged black professionals, and it would indeed be a popular victory if Frost were to win for the first time since 1994. But the rarified altitude - Johannesburg is 6,000 feet above sea level - means that balls are flying vast distances, scores continue to plummet and a pack of predators, including the in-form Nick Price five shots back, is poised to pounce on any errors.

The locals display a strangely masochistic pride in telling you there are more thunderstorms in this corner of Africa than anywhere else in the world, and last year's event, which finished a day late and a round light, was a classic of its kind.

From a purely selfish point of view, though, the defending champion, Sven Struver, is praying that lightning will strike twice here. He began his final round in 1996 seven shots behind the leaders only to take the field by storm with a nine-under-par 63. Now, after shooting a seven-birdie 65 yesterday for a three-round total of 205, 11 under par, the 29-year- old German, who only just made the halfway cut, finds himself in exactly the same position 12 months later.

"I need another 63 tomorrow and then perhaps I have a chance," said Struver, whose charge up the leaderboard was triggered by five successive birdies from the fifth. "I changed my clubs at the start of the season and it has taken a while for me to get used to them. Because I won here last year, I put too much pressure on myself in the first two rounds."

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