Benson & Hedges International Open
Benson & Hedges International Open
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Event Features
Rose's nightmare continues - 19th missed cut
Faldo & Olazabal share early second round lead
Valera shoots seasons first albatross
Injury forces Westwood to withdraw
Westwood still doubtful

Home inspiration for Faldo ?

Time was when Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle would automatically have been centre stage then the European golf tour arrived on their home soil.

But when Britain's last two winners of major titles tee off in the Benson and Hedges International

Open at The Oxfordshire on Thursday, they will be out to show that the rest of their careers are not to be spent as members of the chorus line.

Three years on from winning the last of his three Masters and three Opens, Faldo has survived a mere four halfway cuts in 10 starts this season, and has a best finish of just 43rd.

Having returned from America last September to try to secure another Ryder Cup cap, the 41-year-old - the event's most capped and most successful player - has struggled to make it into the top 50 in the race entering the 22nd of the 38 qualifying tournaments.

That can quickly change with some seriously big money coming up - the next three first prizes are £133,333, £200,000 and £216,666 - but Faldo has to transform his game. He has not won in Europe for nearly five years.

If he fails to rediscover form, the chances of a wild card from captain Mark James look slim indeed.

Lyle, though, has been having an even worse time. Open champion in 1985 and winner of the Masters in 1988, he has not had a victory for over six-and-a-half years and has not played in the Ryder Cup for 12 years.

For the last three seasons the 41-year-old Scot has been concentrating mostly on the American circuit, but it has been hard going and there was another false dawn on his return to Augusta last month.

An opening 71 left him only two strokes off the lead, but he made the cut with nothing to spare - one of only three he has survived out of eight this year - and after the further encouragement of a third round 70 closed with an 80 to be only 48th, 18 shots behind winner Jose Maria Olazabal.

Now Lyle tests himself again on the tour where he reigned as number one in 1979, 1980 and 1985 and is still in the top 20 career money winners with over £2.5million.

Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke are now the leading lights in Europe, although Clarke, defending champion this week, has been having a nightmare time so far this year and Westwood is combating a trapped nerve in his upper back.

Montgomerie, top dog for the last six seasons, will start as favourite in what is only his second European event of 1999.


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