Golf: Woosnam determined to enjoy life at the top: Faldo gives his putting some fine-tuning in warm-up for the Masters as Spaniard reiterates Ryder Cup antipathy to Valderrama

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The Independent Online
IAN WOOSNAM was musing yesterday morning over the life and times of John Daly and came to the conclusion that there was a happy medium to be found in the happy hour. 'I know how many I can drink and when to stop,' Woosnam said. 'That's the way I've got to be.'

While Daly is making his comeback in the Honda Classic at Weston Hills following a three-month suspension, Europe's finest are here, warming up for the Masters at Augusta next month. 'I won't go into a bar and say I'm not having a drink because I've got a tournament to win,' Woosnam said. 'There's nothing wrong in having a couple of beers and some fun. There's a happy medium. Life's not a rehearsal. You've got to enjoy it sometimes.'

Woosnam, who relieved Nick Faldo of the Green Jacket in 1991, has been working, like his peers, with David Leadbetter in Florida after an extended break. He has only played twice this year, missing the half-way cut in an event in Australia and finishing fourth in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Phuket. 'I'm trying to build up my confidence for the Masters,' Woosnam said, 'to be mentally prepared. I've got my swing back on track. Last year I was always struggling.' The Welshman turned to Leadbetter after a hopeless display in Sun City before Christmas.

When he won the Masters Woosnam (5ft 4 1/2 in) was the target of some unsporting comments from spectators. 'I'm still getting letters from people apologising for what happened. The trouble was caused by a handful who had had too much beer. When you're my height no one expects you to do it. In the last two years I put so much pressure on myself to do well that the results have gone the other way. I've been No 1 and my goal now is to win more majors. I'm going to stand there and enjoy it. Wherever it goes it goes. If I miss the cut so what? I'll take a couple of days' holiday. When I relax I play my best golf.'

Faldo, on the other hand, bridled at questions about his form. 'All right,' he snapped at one point. 'Let's keep drumming away at it.' Faldo lost his world No 1 ranking to Greg Norman when he missed the cut in Phuket last month and on his only other appearance this year, in the Doral Ryder Open in Florida last week, he again missed the cut. The last time he missed two in a row was eight years ago and that was when he was going through a radical swing change with Leadbetter.

Faldo, who today partners Daly, said the cause of his troubles has been his putting, but at Doral it was a bizarre mistake from the fairway that shook him. He had 143 yards to the green and mis-hit a wedge into the water. He took a double-bogey six and missed the cut by a stroke.

'When you play like that you feel that you're not meant to be there,' Faldo said. 'I've been working hard and I hope I've turned it around. I've changed my stance and had a good re-tune. When it all clicks together I'm looking forward to some good golf. We've all got room for improvement. The whole game's about confidence. I'm not wound up about it. Everything's fine.'

Asked about playing with Daly, Faldo replied: 'John's. . .well, I'm sure he'll tell us what he's been up to.' Birthday celebrations for two of his children next week means that Faldo will miss the Nestle Invitational at Bay Hill but will return to America the week after that. 'I'm just praying the weather at home will be OK,' Faldo said. 'I'll be working on some drills.'

Bernhard Langer, the reigning Masters champion, has also come out of hibernation for the Honda Classic. Langer, after finishing third in Thailand, has had four weeks off at his home in Boca Raton, Florida. He too has been working with the ubiquitous Leadbetter. Langer is changing his swing significantly but not as abruptly as Faldo. 'It could take one year or it could take five,' Langer said. 'There were weeks last year when I got real frustrated. I want to see how good I can be. I want to find out what my limits are.'

Fred Couples, who won here 12 months ago, is not defending the title because of a back injury and another absentee is Phil Mickelson, who broke a leg skiing in Arizona last week. Another skiing casualty is Mark Wiebe, who broke his shoulder last Sunday, while Larry Mize, who won the Johnnie Walker World Championship in Jamaica last December, has had a knee operation for a torn cartilage. When reminded of the risks on the piste, Mickelson, second in the US money list this season, boasted that he was an experienced skier and knew how to fall. He ran into a tree.

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