Frenchman pulls ahead at blustery Carnoustie

68 by Van de Velde earns lead

Woods 4th

July 17, 1999|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Maybe it's ludicrous. Maybe golf isn't meant to be played on a course where the rough is thigh deep, the fairways are as narrow as tennis courts, and the wind roars like a rush-hour subway.

But it doesn't matter. The British Open at Carnoustie is setting up as a classic test of golfing survival.

Yesterday, unheralded Frenchman Jean Van de Velde showed the best golfers in the world how to take the nasty out of Carnoustie.

Aiming for pars and hoping for the best, Van de Velde's 3-under 68 gave him the 36-hole lead at 1-over-par 143.

Lying second at 144 was another international mystery guest, Argentina's Angel Cabrera, who shot 69.

But it's the players just off the pace who provided the tournament with an air of anticipation even as the diabolical winds whipped off the Firth of Tay.

Sweden's Jesper Parnevik, twice a runner-up and battling hay fever so awful he wandered around with pieces of paper shoved up his nose, was at 145.

Tiger Woods and Greg Norman were tied at 146, with Sweden's Patrik Sjoland, immaculately placed to make a charge for the silver claret jug in tomorrow's closing round.

And Justin Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion, was in a group of five at 147.

But gale-force golf took its toll on the game's top players. The cut was at 12-over 154, which knocked out defending champion Mark O'Meara and Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal (157), PGA champion Vijay Singh (161) and European Wunderkind Sergio Garcia, 19, who finished dead last at 172. O'Meara was the first defending champion to miss an Open cut since 1990.

Sandy Lyle arrived at the 18th green waving his putter with a white glove stuck on the end. He had an 81.

First-round leader Rodney Pampling dubiously posted another first -- the only leader to then miss a cut. The former Australian groundskeeper followed Thursday's 71 with a 15-over 86 yesterday. After 10 bogeys, one double bogey and a triple bogey on the ninth hole, his psychologist wife hugged him as he came off the 18th.

Seven players broke par, but 37 failed to break 80 -- down 20 from the previous day.

"Par means nothing here," Parnevik said.

Of all the twists and turns dished out by unforgiving Carnoustie, though, the biggest was to see Van de Velde atop the leader board.

France is known for a lot of things, such as culture, wine, food and bicycle races. What it's not well known for is golf, even though the country boasts many fine courses, if only 250,000 serious players. France hasn't produced a British Open champion since Arnaud Massy in 1907.

And few expect Van de Velde to end the drought. But give him credit. He took advantage of diminishing winds and rode birdies on two the last three holes to take the lead.

"The plan was to try to make pars and see what you can do from there," Van de Velde said. "Not that I was nervous, but it drains you a lot to be out there all day."

Although he has been on the PGA European Tour for 10 years and won the 1993 Roma Masters, Van de Velde, 33, is hardly a household name, even in Europe.

He got his start in the game to ward off summer boredom, recalling that at 6, he didn't want to go with his parents to the beach near the family's summer home outside Biarritz.

"All I could see standing in the garden of the house was this golfer, walking by the garden," he said.

He convinced his parents to take him to a miniature golf course and kept at the game. His golfing idols were Americans such as Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson and Spain's Seve Ballesteros.

Van de Velde agreed that his winning the British Open would raise golf awareness in France.

"You need the players, and you need the results, and it's hard to get great results in big tournaments out of 250,000 players," he said. "But that's the way it is. So, if I can do something really good, if I win, it could be a tremendous boost for me, but definitely golf in France."

Cabrera, the 29-year-old Argentine, is known back home as "Pato," or the Rabbit. He has been coming on strong in the last few weeks, finishing second in two of his last five European tour appearances.

He is trying to follow the advice of fellow pro Eduardo Romero, who helped him on the European tour in 1995 by underwriting his expenses.

"The only thing he always tells me is. `Behave yourself on the course,' " Cabrera said. `Behave yourself.' "

But he'll also have to look over his shoulder for the charge of Parnevik and golf's Tiger (Woods) and Shark (Norman).

Fighting a temperature, hay fever and sore hand, Parnevik said he felt so awful, he nearly walked off after five holes. But a birdie at the par-4 seventh forced him to change his mind, and he battled his way into contention with a 71.

Woods, who shot 72, also fought through a bout of hay fever and yet another windy, wacky day.

"I enjoy playing in terrible conditions, because you have to be more creative," Woods said. "You have to use your repertoire of shots and not be afraid to go ahead and trust your instincts."

Norman was on his way to a terrific round until he pushed his tee-shot into the rough on the 17th, whiffed his next shot, absorbed a triple-bogey 7, and finished at 70.

"You know, I got a real dose of true punishment and it doesn't feel good," Norman said. "I don't think my tee shot deserved or warranted having an air swing for my second shot."

But he's not complaining too much. He's in the chase. And believe it or not, he said he's enjoying himself despite, as he put it, "You know we don't like taking sevens."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

British Open

The leader...

Jean Van de Velde 75-68-143

... and selected followers

Angel Cabrera 75-69-144

Jesper Parnevik 74-71-145

Patrik Sjoland 74-72-146

Greg Norman 76-70-146

Tiger Woods 74-72-146

Justin Leonard 73-74-147

Bernhard Langer 72-77-149

(Complete scores, 8C)

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