Golf: Rocca breezes in as Faldo bows out

Andy Farrell,New York
Friday 15 August 1997 23:02

The row of national flags at the back of the stand by the 18th green have been cunningly arranged so that the Star Spangled Banner catches most of the breeze through the trees. Given the predominance of home players on the leaderboard at the USPGA Championship, with Lee Janzen leading by one stroke from Davis Love, that would be fair enough.

Apart from the Italian tricolour, for Costantino Rocca, who returned a second successive 69, few of the European flags deserved to be flying high. Certainly none of the three potential candidates for Seve Ballesteros' two wild cards could be said to be flying a kite.

While the US skipper Tom Kite, at one under, continued to give himself a good reason to pick himself, Nick Faldo and Jose Maria Olazabal missed the cut, while Jesper Parnevik birdied the last hole to give himself a chance of playing over the weekend. Faldo slumped to a 78, with double bogeys at both the ninth and tenth, for a total of 13 over, while Olazabal was only one better.

Faldo's comments were solely that he "played badly, putted badly", before he walked away after spotting a journalist he has unilaterally banned from his press conferences. This is the first time since he played in all four majors in 1984 that Faldo has missed the cut in two of them.

The other occasion was at the Masters, while his finishes of 48th at the US Open and 51st at the Open give Ballesteros the ammunition to omit the 40-year-old Englishman from the Ryder Cup team if that is what he ultimately decides.

Ballesteros will be more concerned about Olazabal, who can still make the team on points, producing the worst performance of his comeback season. Following an opening 79, he improved to a 73 but immediately flew to Ireland to practise ahead of the European Open. "It is much more important for me to do well on the course than whether I'm going to be in the team."

Rocca holds the tenth place on the European qualifying list, having slipped back following shoulder and then rib injuries. A good finish here will help confirm a place at Valderrama which looked to be secure after he finished fifth at the US Masters, although Ignacio Garrido, Thomas Bjorn and Per-Ulrik Johansson are also having fine tournaments.

After missing only one fairway, Rocca, who holed a 60-foot putt at the ninth, and very nearly holed his five-iron approach for eagle at the last, . He would gladly accept another two 69s. "The mind is only on this tournament and this course," Rocca added. "If I play good I have a good chance to make the team.''

Rocca shared third place with a group which included Fred Couples, aided by holing his second shot at the 11th for an eagle, Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson. Love, who is in the same situation as Rocca, slipped back by one shot from his overnight score to three under, one ahead of the Italian, but his joint first round leader John Daly crashed to one under after coming home in 39.

Janzen, the 1993 US Open champion, was in sight of a new course record as he twice reached six under but bogeys at the last two holes dropped him back to four under after a 67. Tiger Woods, watched by Evander Holyfield and Miss Universe, is only four back after his second level par 70.

After an opening 74, Colin Montgomerie needed an improvement to make the cut and his luck turned at the 216-yard third. Far too quick on his swing, Monty pull-hooked his tee shot, the ball only staying in the vicinity of the hole via a tree and a spectator's head. It took a brilliant chip, low over a bunker with a nine-iron to save par, but from the fourth he went on a run of four consecutive birdies.

But taking two to get out of a greenside bunker at the eighth cost a double bogey, and he took another double at the ninth when he pushed his drive so far right that he had to proceed up a fairway of the adjoining East course. "That's the first time in a long time I can remember having to do that," Monty said. "Spectators were asking me for my autograph. They thought I was walking in.''

At five over par after his 71, Montgomerie made the weekend safely. "I have not missed a cut internationally this year and I'm proud of that record," he added, in reflective rather than head-blowing mood.

US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Winged Foot, Mamaroneck, New York) Early second round scores (US unless stated): 136 L Janzen 69 67. 137 D Love (US) 66 71. 138 C Rocca (It) 69 69; J Maggert 69 69; P Blackmar 70 68; S Maruyama (Japan) 68 70; P Mickelson 69 69; F Couples 71 67; J Leonard 68 70. 139 P Stankowski 68 71; G Norman (Aus) 68 71. 140 T Woods 70 70; P Stewart 70 70; 141 J Furyk 69 72; L Rinker 70 71; T Lehman 70 71. 142 M O'Meara 69 73; M Bradley 73 69; J Cook 71 71; S Jones 69 73. 143 O Browne 70 73; B Mayfair 75 68; S Hoch 71 72; J Sindelar 72 71; H Irwin 73 70; E Romero (Arg) 71 72. 144 B Langer (Ger) 71 73. 145 Y Kaneko (Japan) 72 73; F Funk 71 74; C Montgomerie (GB) 74 71 146 P Jacobsen 74 72; S Torrance (GB) 74 72; J Parnevik (Swe) 76 70; E Els (SA) 70 76. 147 B Boyd 71 76. 148 G Day 76 72; C Parry (Aus) 76 74. 149 C Toulson 75 74. 150 J Stone 75 75; T Watson 71 79. 152 J M Olazabal (Sp) 79 73. 153 N Faldo (GB) 75 78; C Strange 76 77. 155 P Oakley 78 77; G Boros 74 81. 158 J Mason 78 80. 163 M Fuller 81 84. Withdrew: M Wiebe.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments