Golf: Ryder hopefuls put in shade

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The Independent Online
A dozen of the top 20 players in the Ryder Cup points table are in the Volvo German Open field, but none from Ian Woosnam to Bernhard Langer could break 70 in the first round here yesterday.

On a day when 32 lesser-known golfers shot 69 or better, the best the Cup hopefuls could achieve were rounds of 70 by Langer, Sam Torrance and Peter Mitchell, with Woosnam next on 71 along with Padraig Harrington and Ross McFarlane.

While the bigger names struggled on a course considerably toughened from last year, Mike Weir, of Canada, Rolf Muntz, of the Netherlands, Spain's Ignacio Garrido and England's Van Phillips all went round in 65 to be joint leaders on six under par.

Having started at the 10th, Weir, a 27-year-old left-hander hardly known in Europe, had a blistering run from the 17th to the fifth of six birdies and an eagle. He had also had two earlier birdies but his round was spoiled by a bad start and a poor finish. He dropped three shots in his first two holes and then needing a par four at the ninth, his last hole, for the outright lead he had another bogey.

Garrido, the 25-year-old from Madrid, had earlier bogeyed the ninth hole when he, too, needed a par four to go to seven under.

Woosnam, who won this event last year when the tournament was reduced to 54 holes because of thunderstorms, shot a two-over-par 38 for the first nine holes and said: "I just drove badly."

But the 39-year-old Welshman, who is hoping for a top-four placing to extend his lead at the top of the Order of Merit, had birdies at the 10th and 18th to bring his score back to level par.

Last year he was 20 under par for his three rounds. "The course is now two or three shots harder and after my poor start I'm pretty glad to have a par round. There's still plenty of time to make up ground," he said.

Langer, who, like Woosnam, has been suffering from back trouble, said he had no problems yesterday and was reasonably satisfied with his 70. But other Ryder Cup prospects, particularly Per-Ulrich Johansson, of Sweden, and Italy's Costantino Rocca, who both shot 72, France's Jean Van de Velde, who shot 73, and David Gilford, Roger Chapman and David Carter, each with 75, need to improve or face missing the half-way cut.

Scores, Digest, page 31