Golf: Woosnam earns reward for his patience

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP Welshman survives poor drive at last to win over the Burma Road and guarantee himself Ryder Cup place
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The Independent Online
Patience, rather than his more usual aggressive tendencies, helped Ian Woosnam to double his season's earnings by winning the European tour's biggest ever first-place prize of pounds 183,340. If the tussle did not quite live up to the setting or the billing, the Welshman's final round of 70 meant he completed a two-shot win in the Volvo PGA Championship over a handy trio of Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Darren Clarke.

"I wouldn't say it was one of my spectacular rounds, but I hung on," said Woosnam, who has twice been second this year. "It gives your confidence a boost to win against one of our stronger fields and it is nice to still be winning tournaments coming up to 40."

The victory, his second in the tournament and the 32nd of his career, took Woosnam to the top of the Volvo Rankings and the Ryder Cup qualifying points list, confirming his place in the European team with Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and now Clarke as well.

Two years ago, the only season in the last 11 years when he has not won on tour, Woosnam only made the team after Jose Maria Olazabal withdrew. Faldo gave himself a lift up the rankings by earning pounds 82,023 to move up to 20th place.

"The Ryder Cup is taken care of now. I'd love to win the Order of Merit now and it would be nice to get into contention at the Open again. It's been a long time," the Welshman added. "It was difficult today with the wind into you one moment and against you the next, and the greens were getting bouncy. Wentworth does fetch the best out of the best players. You need experience here."

Woosnam was caught by the young pretender of the pack when Clarke birdied the par-five fourth and the Irishman went into the lead when he added another at the eighth. Woosnam's patience must have been wearing thin until he finally picked up his first shot of the day by holing from 12 feet at the 12th. A bogey from Clarke at the next followed by a five-iron to 20 feet at the 14th for a birdie by Woosnam took him into the lead by two. "With the others dropping a couple of shots, I thought it was a good moment to finally hole one," he said.

There was a momentary flutter when Woosnam, following a disagreement with his caddie, Phil "Wobbly" Morbey, who wanted his boss to hit a one- iron, hooked his drive into deep rough at the last. Any danger that Clarke would eagle the hole, though, disappeared when he drove into a bunker and caught the lip with his second.

Faldo, who was thwarted in his attempt to win a fifth PGA title by Costantino Rocca last year, continued his fine ball-striking of the previous day to reach the turn in 33. Countless putts showed an interest in taking him further under par, before refusing to descend underground. His pairing with Els in the penultimate group offered an opportunity for each to fire off the other, but like the 10-day fire on Chobham Common which threatened parts of the course last week, both their hopes were extinguished.

A bogey at the short 14th, where he had overshot the green, was Faldo's only deviation from par on the back nine until he got up and down for a birdie at the last. At the same hole Els was denied his second eagle of the round when his chip from behind the green hit the hole and stayed out. "It would have been a miracle if it had gone in," the South African said. "I missed a lot of opportunities, especially over the last few holes."

Such a quality leaderboard, plus the glorious weather, brought out a record crowd of over 20,000. While Langer and Olazabal bubbled under with 70s, Montgomerie burst into the fringes of contention with a 64, one outside Wayne Riley's course record, to haul himself up to fifth place.

Meanwhile Seve Ballesteros, who was forced to pull out of the tournament when a perennial back injury flared up again on Saturday, is considering having an operation. Ballesteros is not sure whether he will play in this week's Deutsche Bank Open in Hamburg or next week's European Grand Prix at Slaley Hall after the latest setback.

"I have a lot of pain," Seve said. "When I practise more than normal, I feel terrible the next day. I have a hard time standing up. The situation is very difficult. I may think about an operation." At least, one look at the Ryder Cup standings will have brought a smile back to the European captain's face.

The owenr of Valderrama, Jamie Ortiz-Patino, has announced that a number of potential American Ryder Cup team members will visit the venue for September's match prior to the Open Championship. A delegation led by the US captain, Tom Kite, will arrive on Friday 11 July including Tiger Woods, Davis Love, Mark O'Meara and David Duval, while the following day Tom Lehman, Tommy Tolles, John Cook and Payne Stewart will arrive following the final day of the Gulfstream World Invitational at Loch Lomond.

VOLVO PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth) Leading final scores (GB and Irl unless stated): 275 I Woosnam 67 68 70 70. 277 E Els (SA) 69 71 67 70; N Faldo 70 67 70 70; D Clarke 66 74 66 71. 278 C Montgomerie 69 69 76 64. 279 A Cabrera (Arg) 73 67 70 69; D Gilford 67 70 72 70. 280 D Edlund (Swe) 70 72 68 70. 281 L Westwood 70 72 70 69. 282 B Lane 69 72 69 72. 284 E Darcy 66 75 76 67; F Nobilo (NZ) 68 71 77 68; E Romero (Arg) 71 70 70 73. 285 R Burns 72 71 72 70; C Mason 73 71 69 72; D Carter 68 74 70 73; P Walton 69 72 70 74; S Ames (Trin) 70 69 70 76. 286 P Hedblom (Swe) 73 71 75 67; R Rafferty 74 72 72 68; T Bjorn (Den) 68 74 75 69; I Pyman 71 73 73 69; J-M Olazabal (Sp) 72 71 73 70; P Curry 71 74 71 70; J Robson 71 71 71 73; M-A Martin (Sp) 70 75 67 74. 287 A Bossert (Swit) 73 70 75 69; J Coceres (Arg) 74 72 72 69; M Davis 70 73 73 71; P O'Malley (Aus) 73 71 72 71; C Suneson (Sp) 73 72 69 73. 288 B Langer (Ger) 67 75 76 70; A Oldcorn 72 71 74 71; G Emerson 71 70 75 72; V Singh (Fiji) 70 73 73 72; R Goosen (SA) 73 74 69 72. 289 P Broadhurst 72 75 73 69; P-U Johansson (Swe) 70 75 74 70; D Borrego (Sp) 70 75 74 70; D Robertson 72 74 73 70; M Farry (Fr) 68 78 72 71; S Torrance 71 75 71 72; M Roe 72 73 71 73; R Chapman 71 75 69 74. 290 G Evans 71 75 74 70; J Haeggman (Swe) 69 76 72 73; I Garbutt 71 73 72 74; E Canonica (It) 74 73 69 74; W Westner (SA) 74 70 71 75.