Golf: Hard-driving man nails it at 21st attempt: Tim Glover reports from The Belfry on a major blast from the tee by the world's best-connected big hit man, Karl Woodward from the Wirral

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The Independent Online
KARL WOODWARD is barely a household name at home on the Wirral but John Daly will not tee it up against him. Yesterday Woodward demonstrated why when he unleashed one of the longest drives ever seen at The Belfry's infamous 18th hole.

Woodward, a 43-year-old Merseysider, is, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest driver in the world. At Caernarvon last September, he hit a ball 344.76 yards and that is through the air. The distance is measured, under strict criteria, from the tee to where the ball pitches, not where it comes to rest.

Woodward hopes to improve on his record at The Belfry in the summer. Yesterday, as he made an unofficial attempt to better his mark, the portents were not good. Suffering from flu, Woodward dragged himself out of bed, and the conditions were miserable. It was cold, wet and a 24mph crosswind, invalidating any official record, drew most of his drives into the lake that makes the 18th such a daunting hole.

In the warm-up, he snapped the shaft of his driver, a Ping Zing metal wood. He was equipped with two other clubs, the Wolfson Killer Whale, the model used by Daly, and the all-British Aero Zapper. After 20 attempts Woodward was barely hitting it 300 yards and most of his shots were landing in the water. However, with his 21st drive, he nailed it. The ball pitched on the fairway, about 15 paces from the lake in front of the green. It was measured, all carry, at 364 yards. During the Ryder Cup here last September, when conditions were a lot kinder, only one player, Joachim Haeggman, got anywhere near that. 'I'm gobsmacked,' Woodward said. 'I haven't got a clue why that one went so far.'

He used the graphite- shafted Aero Zapper, a Wilson ball and the new Tiger Tee. Shaped like a shark's tooth, the tee, almost three inches long, is made of high-impact plastic. Golf Incorporated, which launched the tee on the market at the end of last year, claims it 'allows energy to flow into the ball when struck, giving it an extra push'. The company says the tee conforms to the rules of golf.

At the Open Championship at St Andrews in 1990, Woodward wandered on to the practice ground and threw down a challenge to Daly, who is acknowledged as the biggest driver among tournament professionals. The gauntlet was not picked up. 'His manager won't allow him to go head-to- head,' Woodward said. Nevertheless, Woodward positioned himself near Daly and outdrove him by 40 yards.

Woodward is 6ft 1in but weighs only 12 1/2 st. As an amateur, he played for Cheshire and as a professional his only notable victory came in Mexico in 1980. His longest competitive drive was 422 yards at the Portal Golf Club in Cheshire. 'I have always been a big hitter and a lousy putter,' he said. 'If I dropped dead on the Wirral nobody would bat an eyelid but I have great recognition in America.'

Woodward makes a living in the United States, helping companies with research and development, making commercials and featuring in long-driving exhibitions. 'I hit 500 balls every day. It's much easier to hit one club than to have to go through the bag. I have tended to ignore other aspects of the game.'

This year, Woodward will attempt to gain his card on the US Satellite Tour. 'If I could just string together a few good rounds,' he said. 'It's all about feel. I don't think I've got any.'

(Photograph omitted)

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