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Golf: The Open 2004: Tiger finds his bite as the peacock gets ruffled; THE OPEN: The action hots up on the third day at Royal Troon.

Byline: anthony CLAVANE

TAKE two 28-year-old golfers, both capable of turning heads - but for completely different reasons.

Day three of the Ian Poulter fashion show, also known as the 133rd Open, saw the youngest swinger in Troon striding out of the locker room in a very fetching pink and black number.

Admittedly more restrained than his previous outfits, this cross between Kevin the Teenager, the Pink Panther and a Big Brother reject still enjoyed making a big spectacle of himself.

It was left to Mr 'Boring' to teach Mr Flamboyant a far more effective way of making the game less bland and more cool for 'the kids'.

Simple idea, really. Instead of spectacular clothing, why not try spectacular golf?

The first seven holes were as immaculate as any Tiger has played in his career. Crisis, what crisis?

It's tempting to dismiss Poulter as all mouth and no trousers.

He certainly talks a good game, boasting before yesterday's play: "I don't think my clothes are taking anything away from the golf.

"I think I can win. I want to finish with two 66s and nine under par - I'd love to be on that on Sunday evening."

Sadly he was five shots off target, and the prospect of him lifting the Claret Jug is about as likely as members of Royal Troon proposing him for a knighthood for services to fashion.

As for the 'no trousers' bit - well, on the first day he sported a pair of Union Jack strides, complemented by red, white and blue sunglasses and matching golf shoes. On the second day he appeared in full knickerbocker glory.

And yesterday, with his pink cap worn - surprise, surprise - back to front, he once again had the the good folk of Ayrshire choking over their gin and tonics.

One traditionalist pointed out that Poulter was actually wearing plus-twos rather than plus-fours, but such pedantry aside, it can't be too much of a coincidence that he ended up with a plus-one score for the day.

Paul Casey is worried that his fellow British young guns are showing symptoms of George Best Syndrome, which is quite harsh on the Manchester United legend. For Bestie, like Tiger, actually won things.

Poulter might consider himself a bit of a pinko, trying to overthrow the conservative establishment, but it would be wise to get a few majors under his belt first before starting the revolution.

Let us compare and contrast the way both 28-year-olds attacked the course.

Poulter's 71 was hardly a disaster. Indeed, there were some sublime approach shots.

But it's hard not to see a connection between all the wolf-whistling from the crowd and his several missed birdie opportunities.

Every time he approached the green his outfit, a dead ringer for Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's unsubtle attire, attracted hoots of laughter and "Hello sailor!" chants. The Milton Keynes fashion victim took it all in his stride, to be fair.

Indeed he positively revelled in the growing notoriety - which surely has to be part of the problem.

To paraphrase the late Marlon Brando, Poulter could be a contender.

But at the moment he is the triumph of style over substance.

His easy banter with the Troon Army and eyecatching outfits might be the kick up the backside golf needs, but Woods is the real thing.

Still the greatest golfer on the planet, no matter what the critics say.

Seven years after he shot an unforgettably sublime third round 64, he seems to have rediscovered his brilliance and sense of adventure.

They said his golf had become dull and uninspired, that the spark had gone. But from the first hole, using an iron off the tee, he showed everyone his class.

Reports of his death are a little premature. Three birdies in the front nine holes saw him surge up the leaderboard.

His recovery shot on the tenth was extraordinary.

Although the back nine was all about consolidation, the way he relentlessly strove for perfection was a big lesson for all fashion-conscious young Brits.

After hitting the middle of the fairway off the first, he didn't milk the crowd's applause like a preening peacock - no names - might have.

Instead he growled very loudly in frustration. It was if he were saying: "I could do even better."

In more ways than one, the Tiger has not lost his roar.


TUNNEL VISION: Poulter lines up a putt; TIGERISH ATTITUDE: Woods fires off his tee shot at the second during a round which keeps him in contention for the championship
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 18, 2004
Previous Article:Golf: The Open 2004: IT'S MURDER FOR McGINLEY.
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