GOLF: Woosnam entering the Tiger's lair

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AS GOOD as the opening day of the Cisco World Match Play Championship was, with three of Britain's leading players progressing on a day of fine autumnal sunshine, today's quarters-finals promise even more.

In their contrasting styles, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood and Ian Woosnam dispatched their first-round opponents but now face the finest in the game. Monty plays Mark O'Meara, the Open and Masters champion; Westwood is pitted against Ernie Els, a three-times winner; and Woosie will try to tame the world No 1, Tiger Woods.

"I have only ever played one hole with Tiger in practice," Woosnam said. "It will be interesting to see what he does." The Welshman, who has not played for three weeks, was due another week's rest before Bernhard Langer withdrew on Monday. "I am very fortunate just to be here and I've nothing to lose."

Wentworth's West Course, upon which he has won two World Match Play and two PGA titles, brings out the best in Woosnam and his putting, not the strongest part of his game this season, improved enough for him to beat Darren Clarke 4 and 3. "I feel I'll have to raise my game against Tiger," Woosie said. "It doesn't really matter who I am playing; I am playing more against myself."

If their match did not contain the best golf of the day, Westwood's 8 and 7 victory over Stuart Appleby did. The Australian, in London for the first time since his wife, Renay, was killed in an accident at Waterloo in July, scored an approximate 67 in the morning but found himself three down after Westwood's 64. His 12-under-par effort for 29 holes was not only a fine debut in the event for the 25-year-old from Worksop, but only just short of the best scoring ever seen in the championship.

While Woosnam would have been watching the tournament anyway - "with a pint in my hand" - Westwood once bunked off school to watch the Welshman on television. The occasion was the World Match Play final in 1987, which was delayed until Monday due to Michael Fish's non-hurricane, and in which Woosie beat Sandy Lyle at the last.

"It is not right to say I bunked off school," Westwood corrected. "I was ill and though I probably could have gone to school, the World Match Play final was on the telly."

Other than the Ryder Cup last year, this is the first matchplay golf Westwood has played as a pro. He keeps the same relaxed attitude. "Going down the first fairway, I asked my caddie what tactics I should use and he said: `Just don't make any bogeys and try to make as many birdies as possible.' He's a genius, isn't he?"

Westwood made just one bogey and 13 birdies, including five in a row around the turn in the morning, and now plays a man who has only lost one of his 12 matches in the event. "I know Ernie has a good record around here but you have to accept that you've got to beat players like Ernie and Tiger," Westwood said. "Shooting 12 under for 29 holes hasn't exactly hurt my confidence."

Having thrice trailed to Thomas Bjorn before winning 4 and 3, Montgomerie showed the fighting qualities he will need against O'Meara today. At the 1st hole, Montgomerie found the rough and turned to his spotter, a woman member at Wentworth, and said: "I'll try and put it on the fairway from now on so you don't get your feet wet."

The exchanges took a different tact at the 7th, where both players' drives finished side by side. With preferred lies in operation, Montgomerie marked the ball by which his spotter was standing and picked it up, only to find it was Bjorn's. After consulting the referee, Andy McFee, Monty was handed a one-shot penalty and later lost the hole. "It's unbelievable that this could be allowed to happen," Montgomerie said, to no one in particular.

It was a harsh penalty for an unintentional act but the Scot had no one to blame but himself. He said: "I was relieved the penalty was not the loss of the hole and that we didn't walk to the next tee. It was unfortunate because there is only one blind hole in the course, where the spotters can't see who hits first and the players can't see where the balls land. I wasn't trying to gain an advantage but it isn't the right thing to pick up your opponent's ball."

Patrik Sjoland plays the defending champion, Vijay Singh, in the last quarter-final and proved himself a dangerous matchplay opponent due to his superb short game. His victory against Steve Stricker included a half at the short 10th in the afternoon when the Swede chipped to 16 feet and holed the putt, while the American missed from five feet.

Then at the 36th, Stricker was just short of the green in two shots when Sjoland, using a nine-iron from thick rough 130 yards away, landed within a foot of the hole. Stricker took three shots to get down and lost by one hole.

Photograph, page 25

WENTWORTH DETAILS

FIRST-ROUND RESULTS

S Stricker (US) lost to P Sjoland (Swe)

1 hole

C Montgomerie (GB) bt T Bjorn (Den)

4 & 3

L Westwood (GB) bt S Appleby (Aus)

8 & 7

D Clarke (GB) lost to I Woosnam (GB)

4 & 3

TODAY'S SECOND ROUND

P Sjoland (Swe) v V Singh (Fiji)

C Montgomerie (GB) v M O'Meara (US)

L Westwood (GB) v E Els (SA)

I Woosnam (GB) v T Woods (US)

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