Golf: Woosnam determined to enjoy his new image

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The Independent Online
It may come as a surprise to the competitors in the Johnnie Walker Classic that they are involved in an event during which "old stereotypes will be challenged and new images produced". Co-sanctioned by both the European and Australasian tours, the tournament has been nominated as a part of the British and Australian governments' newIMAGES programme.

"We were approached by the British Government to launch the newIMAGES programme and we are honoured the Johnnie Walker Classic has been chosen to be the first of many sporting, cultural and economic interactions between Britain and Australia in 1997," Steven Foxcroft, of United Distillers, said.

Presumably the Ashes Test series next summer was ruled out on the grounds that the image of Mike Atherton holding up the Old Urn is considered too unlikely. That said, yesterday's opening ceremony featured the Gold Coast branch of the Highland Pipers, the Roulettes, cousins of the Red Arrows, plus a couple of scantily clad Aboriginal gentlemen.

Ian Woosnam may like to know that it was the top man, the Prime Minister, John Major, rather than Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, who was behind the circuit's opening event moving from its traditional Asian setting to Australia. "I think it is a long way to travel," Woosnam said, "but if you want to win the Order of Merit, you've got to do it."

Woosnam, the defending champion, is free of the back problems which prevented him challenging Colin Montgomerie for the money list title at the end of last season. "My bad back is something I have to learn to live with. At the end of last year I had three weeks in a row where I had problems and it felt like giving everybody else a three-shot lead.

"When I was younger I could play through the pain, but now it is better to accept that I will have problems, make the most of it and enjoy myself. My swing will last a lifetime, so if I can stay off the beer, I might do all right for plenty more years."

Fred Couples, a fellow back sufferer, reported no complaints after his trip from the West Coast of America, but John Daly, following only his second top-10 result since winning the 1995 Open at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, did not play in the Pro-Celebrity Shootout at Hope Island yesterday.

Daly has a recurrence of a hip injury with a slight infection, but will be ready to tee off tomorrow. "It started bothering me two or three weeks ago and then again on the flight over, but I'm taking pain-killers and I've been told I can't do any more damage by playing," he said.

Among the television and sporting stars who did appear were David Campese, Tony Greig and Wayne Gardner. Montgomerie was partnered by Mark Phillips and his son, Peter, the Scottish schoolboy rugby union international. Phillips Jnr is on a working holiday for the promoters IMG, helping put up the fairway roping.

Without doubt the most pleasant image so far this week was of Ian Baker- Finch, who has made one cut worldwide since August 1994, as a winner again, albeit with the help of three partners in Tuesday's pro-am.

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