Five days after his maiden triumph in the Italian Open, Steve Webster stood on the first tee (actually, the tenth) at the Forest of Arden yesterday morning, an expectant home crowd agog at his prospects of following up with a victory in the British Masters.
There followed an anticlimax that will be difficult to surpass this week. Webster drove into the left rough, was then unable to clear the ditch about 60 yards short of the green and he took three shots to get on it.
Then he took three putts to get into the hole. A double-bogey six. "But that's golf," he shrugged. "I didn't do it on purpose."
If that sounds a shade too relaxed, then it was meant to. Tournament winners do not become rabbits overnight and Webster now knows that he has a game that will withstand occasional calamity.
And he finished with a level-par round which, he was willing to tell anybody, was a "great score."
It was a great score because, by his measurements, he had not played well. It was still a round that was spiced with exquisite pleasures, such as on the fourth when he was in a bunker and nearly holed his recovery.
Such as on the seventh when he nearly splashed into the hole again. And such as on the 11th when he did exactly the same thing again.
"I played three bunker shots, nearly holed all three and the longest putt I had after any of them was six inches."
The sixth was a desperately difficult hole into the wind yesterday. Webster parred it. Then he birdied the 16th and the 17th admitting: "I was only really concentrating at the last four holes."
If Webster played some pretty vague golf to begin with, his Atherstone clubmate, Paul Broadhurst, was a picture of intensity. He had set himself to make a good start, and he did.
Birdies at the 12th (his third), the 16th and 17th put him stridently on the upper reaches of the leaderboard and he was heading for a three-under first nine.
Then he hit a beautifullydrawn five-iron on the ninth (18th) that was immediately attracted by the flag except that the bounce took him onto a downslope and his ball carried two inches onto the second cut of grass behind the hole.
To chip, or to putt? Broadhurst took the second option, was altogether too strong in his stroke and he couldn't make the putt coming back. Still, two under for the nine was pretty promising. "I was going along nicely," said Broadhurst. "Then I lost my focus."
He parred the first six holes on his inward journey having hit, by his reckoning, a really good drive at the fiendish sixth and followed it with a five-iron to 15ft.
Now he had the inviting seventh at which to increase his profit. This is a birdie par-five, if ever there was one. Broadhurst took seven. He had pulled his drive, someone suggested. "Pulled it!" said he. "It was a bloody great hook."
By the ninth, his last hole, he said his swing had disintegrated. He drove into the left rough, left his second short and right and although he played a tidy flop shot, over a bunker and with precious little green to work with, he couldn't make the putt.
So he came in at one over, aware that there's a certain amount of repair work to be done if he is to approximate his sterling efforts of last year, when he was a serious contender right to the end.