Golf: Wayward amateur leaves Roe feeling way below par: Yorkshireman lucky not to be blinded in the English Open pro-am

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The Independent Online
MARK ROE was once rapped over the knuckles by the European Tour for being extremely critical of pro- ams. What happened to him yesterday confirmed his worst nightmare. Roe, who had been enjoying the finest season of his career, was poleaxed by an errant shot.

Playing in the curtain-raiser to the Murphy's English Open at the Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club, Roe was standing on the eighth tee when an amateur, playing the second hole, shanked a shot. The ball struck Roe on the left temple, knocking him to the ground. The Yorkshireman, who had blood streaming from a cut, was treated by a doctor and, sporting a large lump on his forehead, intends to fulfil his tee time for the first round of the championship this morning.

'The ball missed my eye by an inch and I could easily have been blinded,' Roe said. 'I realise how lucky I am.' The culprit was crestfallen, but Roe assured him that there was no harm done. 'I know how he feels,' Roe said. 'I've hit people several times and now I know how much it hurts. The chap never stopped apologising.'

It is just as well that the guilty party did not come from the group playing with Rodger Davis. His three amateurs were Ian Botham, Gary Sobers and Brian Lara.

Ian Woosnam, the defending champion, is one of eight members of Europe's 1993 Ryder Cup team playing at the Forest of Arden. Last year, he finished with a 66 for a total of 269, 19 under par. On Sunday, Woosnam shot 66 in the fourth round of the US PGA Championship for an aggregate of 279. Nick Price's winning total was 269.

'It wasn't just in the last round that I played well,' Woosnam said. 'The difference between Nick Price and me is that he was averaging 27 putts a round, I was averaging 33. From tee to green that's the best I've felt and played for a long time. I haven't really been happy with my game for three years. When you're not playing well you don't have any goals.'

Woosnam maintains that the key to his improvement was provided by Greg Norman, with whom he played two rounds in the Open Championship. At 12 over par, Woosnam missed the halfway cut by miles. Norman's advice was to stand much closer to the ball at address. At Southern Hills, Woosnam said he did so by as much as six inches, which means that before the US PGA his alignment must have been hopelessly out of sync. Woosnam said he is to rejoin the Professional Golfers' Association after resigning earlier this season in order to save the pounds 160 a year subscription. 'It seemed to upset a lot of people,' Woosnam said. 'I received a number of calls asking why I had done it.'

After the English Open, Woosnam will take two weeks off. By contrast, Colin Montgomerie, who has appeared in 13 events in Europe compared to Woosnam's nine, plans to play 10 in a row in an attempt to ensure that he finishes at the top of the Order of Merit.

Montgomerie, who finished 16 strokes adrift of Price in the US PGA, said: 'I'll learn from the experience. When it comes to the majors, tactically and mentally I'm still a rookie. It took Olazabal nine years to win one and it took Price more than that. I've only been trying for seven.'

Montgomerie has qualified for the Scotland team for the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews in October and, sore head or not, Roe's spirits rose when he learnt that his England place is secure.