Golf: Woosnam gains the world but loses his muse: Isolated and out of tune, the little Welshman is a shadow of his former potent self. Tim Glover reports

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The Independent Online
WHEN Ian Woosnam was a struggling young professional without a bean, other than the Heinz variety, to his name, he learnt to play competitive golf in regional PGA tournaments. This year, Woosnam, who has been a member of the Professional Golfers' Association since 1977, decided to resign for economic reasons. It will save him pounds 160 a year or a few seconds in fuel on his private jet.

'It's not a lot of money,' said Woosnam's minder at the International Management Group, 'but what's the point of paying for something you don't use?' Woosnam, of course, no longer plays in regional PGA events. The trouble is, he does not play in many tournaments full stop. At the age of 36, the little Welshman seems to have flown into a watershed. In the majors this year, he has performed like a minor.

In the Masters at Augusta, the scene of his greatest triumph in 1991, he finished 22 strokes behind Jose- Maria Olazabal; in the US Open in Pittsburgh, he missed the cut by a mile and managed to exceed that hopeless performance in the Open at Turnberry where he was 12 over par for two rounds and called for his pilot to take him back to tax exile in Jersey. Woosnam was partnered by Greg Norman at Turnberry. 'He'll be back,' Norman said but he added a significant rider. 'Sometimes,' Norman said, 'you've got to guts it out,' leaving the distinct impression that Woosnam did not have the stomach for a fight. It confirmed an impression that most observers have: Woosnam, who began life on tour 16 years ago with a borrowed Volkswagen Caravanette and a tin opener for company, has made it . . . as a has-been.

Nobody, apart from his wife, Glendryth, is closer to Woosnam than D J Russell, a fellow professional and drinking partner. 'He's not a quitter,' Russell said. 'He works incredibly hard at the game and he will definitely win another big one. He's going through a bad spell and when he plays badly he gives the impression of not giving a damn. It's a way of hiding his embarrassment. When you're in a position that you don't have to work again, the temptation is to pack the whole thing in. Woosie likes socialising but he knows when to drink and when not to. You'll see far more of him than, for example, Faldo or Ballesteros but it doesn't mean he doesn't care.'

In 1978, Woosnam won pounds 284 and had a stroke average on tour of 78.67. He seriously began to line his pockets in 1985 since when he has won nearly pounds 4m in Europe alone with 27 victories. On his day he was untouchable. At 5ft 4in, he was a natural crowd pleaser. Woosnam made a difficult game look ludicrously easy and with a languid, seemingly effortless swing, few could hit the ball further. Yesterday he was seven shots off the pace in the Scandinavian Masters in Stockholm after a second-round 142. So what's has gone wrong?

'I'm still hungry,' Woosnam said. As hungry as 10 years ago? 'Probably not.' He was sitting in the foyer of the Sheraton Hotel here, waiting for a courtesy car. He intended to catch the bus but it was full. He remains one of the boys but there has been a serious disruption of his grass roots, his resignation from the PGA a symptom.

Woosnam, guided by IMG, who have a vested interest in making him - and therefore themselves - as much money as possible, is one of Europe's Super Six who can demand appearance money. It is not called that any more but effectively that is what it is. To get around the albatross of appearance money here, he played in a three-man challenge match against Sweden on Tuesday. Some sponsors, preferring in-form names, will not pay him to appear and this explains why he has played in only eight events out of 28. It is not enough. He should be at his peak. He can go into semi-retirement when he is forty-something.

Then there is his swing. He has lost what was once the most effective method of striking a golf ball but it is not for the first time. He does not know whether to work with Bob Torrance or David Leadbetter and at the moment is listening to nobody, which is the wisest course of action. No teacher gave him that natural, languid swing and no teacher will get it back for him.

He should go further and follow the example of Norman and Nick Price in becoming more independent from IMG. Receiving pounds 50,000 before you stick a tee peg in the ground is a fantastic way of making a living but it does not make you a major contender. If Woosnam really wants to be one of the boys and a major player he should tee it up more regularly and, like the vast majority, should start a tournament at level par.

He has a good excuse for an argument with IMG at the moment in that they ditched Wales from the Dunhill Cup. The other home countries are in, as are weaker nations like France and Germany. This is probably because IMG, who run the Dunhill Cup, also run events in France and Germany. As far as the Tour is concerned Wales does not exist. There is something else Woosnam should do. He should tell his caddie, a young Yorkshireman by the name of Philip Morbey, to be more circumspect. Woosie's success has gone to Wobbly's head. Wobbly (that's the caddie's nickname) drives a flash car with his name on the side. Underneath it says 'professional caddie'. This appears to have given him the confidence to shout at spectators, a practice that is becoming increasingly tiresome.

This has been a wretched year for Woosnam with one exception. In Cannes in April, he was so far off the pace he anticipated missing the cut and called for his pilot. Then, for two rounds, he played like the Woosnam of old, spreadeagling the field with a flock of birdies and eagles. He went from three over par to 17 under and won the championship. Then he took three weeks off. When he returned the magic had vanished.