Final holes prove costly for Hoey


EUROPEAN TOUR:Four dropped shots in the final three holes dropped Michael Hoey back into the chasing pack at the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban yesterday and left him trailing clubhouse leader Thongchai Jaidee by seven shots.

While Hoey could only sign for a level-par round of 72, Jaidee defied strong winds to start with a brilliant seven-under-par 65.

Hoey was four under with three to play, but blocked his drive at the 16th and then had another double-bogey on the 273-yard last after losing a ball in bushes, and came up with an unusual explanation for his bad finish. “I felt so bloated,” said the former British amateur champion, winner last March of the Hassan Trophy in Morocco. “I drank so much yesterday (when it was much hotter) and did the same, but I lost so much concentration. It was weird – I couldn’t swing it properly.”

Jaidee holds a three-shot lead over Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen but it was not the Thai golfer’s superb seven-under-par 65 that Els found himself mostly talking about afterwards, but one particular shot from Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts. The British Open champion could not believe his eyes when Europe’s biggest hitter launched a drive of 419 yards at the downwind third hole.

“I’ve been coming here since 1986 I think and I’ve never seen a ball there, nobody has,” Els said. “They should put a plaque down.”

Els had the last laugh, though. He matched his playing partner’s birdie and out-scored him by five to keep his victory hopes firmly alive.

Jaidee, part of the 33-strong winners-only field thanks to his victory at the Wales Open last June, was out on his own from the time he birdied six of the first 10 holes. The 43-year-old led by five at one point, but that was cut to three late in the day despite the two South African stars having to contend with heavy rain.

Jaidee is on his first-ever trip to South Africa. “I enjoy the course,” he said. “You have to think a lot – I hit the driver on only two holes – and put a three-iron in my bag only 15 minutes before we teed off.”

Seven players share fourth place with Scottish trio Paul Lawrie, Richie Ramsay and Scott Jamieson all shooting 69, as did Welshman Jamie Donaldson, England’s Danny Willett, Dane Thomas Bjorn and Indian Jeev Milkha Singh.

Pádraig Harrington began his 2013 with a 70, as did Shane Lowry, but Paul Casey – winner in Bahrain two years ago, but unable to defend last year after dislocating his shoulder snowboarding – could do no better than 74 like Jose Maria Olazabal and Darren Clarke was one worse than that like defending champion Branden Grace.

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