Thursday, 25 September 2008

Westwood and Campbell left staring at their balls at the Belfry

Colin Montgomerie, self-appointed Ryder Captaincy campaign manager for Sandy Lyle, did some thing remarkable today. I was convinced early on that Darren Clarke would be right at the very bottom of the leaderboard as he played an awful round which included a quadruple bogey eight on the sixth hole. The lush rough punished Clarke and a few visits to the water added to his woes. He slumped to an eight over par 80 in the end and I was fairly sure it would be the worst round I would see from a top player. Then Monty swanned out.

A birdie on the first was a misleading start for the Scot. His usual straight driving game was off today. The rough was unusually thick for the Belfry and led to some scrappy shots. At one point Monty found himself in a bunker, trying for the green with a long iron. In the end he was lucky as his shot pinged off the grassy bank in front of him and dribbled onto the fairway in front. It was that kind of day for him, and the hunched shoulders of Montgomerie, were all the more so by the time he was trudging to the recorders hut to post his 81. It is the third time in the last four tournaments that the proud Scotsman has found himself in the bottom five of the leaderboard. Last week he dropped to 98th in the rankings, this could be the week he falls out of the top 100.

There was a long drawn out kerfuffle on the 18th green as Michael Campbell's ball came to rest touching Lee Westwoods ball. It appeared to be a simple case of mark your balls, pick them up, move one marker to the side to give the first player a clean putt and that's that. The players however just stood around staring at their balls for some time... This prompted legendary BBC commentator Peter Alliss, (who incidentally co-designed The Belfry and had an exceptional Ryder Cup record for the dark times he was involved in the matches for Team GB, as it was then) to break into a call for some help from Elvis "A little less conversation, a little more action please".

Their worry, it became apparent was that one of the balls would move when they tried to mark and lift them. Eventually, after reassurances from the ref, they worked up the testicular fortitude to get on with it, no drama ensuing from it and a derisory cheer from the crowd for their faffing about.

Westwood eventually finished with a 68, tied 3rd, a creditable performance after a tiring week at the Ryder Cup for him. Even if he didn't haul the points in, he did play well at Valhalla and is well up for making inroads into the lead Padraig Harrington has over him in the Order of Merit this week. Campbell, seemingly in another of his short bursts of decent form at the moment was three under, tied eighth. Westwood's

The lead is held by two less illustrious names, Swede Mikael Lundberg and Marcus Fraser of Australia. I have a feeling they'll be fighting to stop Westwood at a place where he has much happier Ryder Cup memories, as well as this title to defend...

CountryTo Par
T1 LUNDBERG, Mikael SWE -5
T1 FRASER, Marcus AUS -5
T3 HANSEN, Anders DEN -4
T3 WARREN, Marc SCO -4
T8 BJÖRN, Thomas DEN -3
T8 SINGH, Jeev Milkha IND -3
T8 ILONEN , Mikko FIN -3
T8 OWEN, Greg ENG -3
T8 CAMPBELL, Michael NZL -3
T8 DIXON, David ENG -3
T8 LAWRIE, Paul SCO -3

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