Golf / The Open: Woosnam rules himself out: Guy Hodgson on a Welshman with problems

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The Independent Online
IAN WOOSNAM asked to avoid a formal press conference at the Open Championship this week. 'I'm playing too badly,' he said. 'I'm not worth interviewing.' Which followers of the Welshman's form have suggested probably means he will make off with the claret jug at Turnberry.

Three years ago he embarked on a journey to the United States, stating his game was so ragged it was a waste of the air fare, and three weeks later he returned having won his only major championship, the Masters, and a preceding event in New Orleans. Which implies Woosnam is either a hopeless reader of his own form or he is a grand master in self-kidology. The betting, given his aim of easing the expectation, is on the latter.

'I couldn't say I have a chance,' Woosnam said after a practice round that grew better with age yesterday, 'when I've been playing so badly recently. I've found it difficult to move the ball where I've wanted it and it's hard to have any confidence when you have no idea where it's going to land.'

Woosnam, whose third place at Turnberry in 1986 is his best in an Open, has managed to win an event, in Cannes, while going through this bad patch, however, and implied yesterday that he felt things were improving. 'It's nothing serious, just a slight fault in the swing. It happens to golfers, we're not machines. But I felt a lot better over the closing holes today and if I can get off to a good start in the first round, play a few shots, the confidence could come back. I'm the sort of player who strikes form suddenly.'

Equally importantly for Woosnam, who is partnered by the reigning champion, Greg Norman, and the 1989 winner, Mark Calcavecchia, is that his back, which has been troubling him this season, gave him no pain yesterday.

Sandy Lyle, who missed the cut in the Scottish Open last week, also had a fairly pain- free expression yesterday after another day's acclimatisation with his broom-handle putter. His practice round on Tuesday included seven birdies and he was upbeat again after yesterday's effort. 'I was a bit embarrassed when I first used the putter,' the 1985 champion said, 'and I practised with it in the dark. Perhaps I should have brought it into the daylight sooner.'

Lyle is also more comfortable that Colin Montgomerie has superseded him as the great Scottish hope. 'I'm delighted,' he said. 'Monty's arrival has taken a lot of the pressure off. There's enough of that anyway on the Sunday.'

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