Golf: Woosnam gets the brush-off

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The Independent Online
In a perfect world for the sponsors they would hold a tournament on a weekend when nothing much was happening and, in this case, the surnames of the players on the leaderboard would be Allenby, Lindgren, Affleck, McFarlane, Oldcorn. It is surprising that Alamo's advisers have not worked on this initial enterprise.

Instead the Alamo English Open competes against the world and a horse race and the leaderboard looks like a dog's breakfast. Nevertheless, it is a rich meal with pounds 650,000 in prize money. A field that was not exactly star-studded in the first place yesterday lost one of its major players, Ian Woosnam.

The little Welshman shot 74 in the first round, after which he practised with a broom-handle putter. In the second round he made the quantum leap, discarded his orthodox putter and went into bat with the long handle. The result was another 74 and at four over par for the tournament Woosnam missed the halfway cut.

The putter he has adopted here measures just over 44 inches and the top of the shaft nestles beneath his chin. "I only missed one short putt with it," Woosnam said. He is going to shave half an inch off the club and he intends to use it at the US Open in Detroit next week. Traditionalists - and there are not many of those left in the professional game what with the advent of space-age alloys and balls that fly further than a European rocket - view the pendulum putter with suspicion bordering on contempt. It is almost akin to playing every other shot in snooker with a rest.

Woosnam, a terrific putter when he won the US Masters in 1991, arrived here saying: "If I'd been putting half decent I'd have won. I'm not going through hell every day but I'm not consistent enough. Working on my putting gives me a bad back. Just half an hour a day and it's horrible." One of the obvious physical advantages he gets from the long putter is that he can keep his back straighter.

Sam Torrance is one of the most successful exponents of the controversial club - Gary Player, for example, thought the Royal and Ancient made a great mistake in not outlawing it - but the Scotsman was not a great advert for the cause yesterday. Torrance shot 72 but finished on Woosnam's aggregate of 148.

At least the championship is still blessed with the benign presence of Colin Montgomerie, the world No 3 and the man consulted to make the Forest of Arden course fit for an English Open. "Three rounds of 68 would do it," Monty said following a first round of 75. Yesterday he got one of them although, like the Ariane, he was not exactly over the moon.

"It could have been a lot lower very easily," Montgomerie said. "It's disappointing but you've got to take what you're given. I'm going in the right direction. I'm not looking for a place, I'm looking to win." Once again Monty's problem was his putting. He missed one from six feet, two from four feet and one from three feet. The greens are such that any putt less than a foot could be sponsored by Camelot-it's a lottery.

Despite his misses, Montgomerie had only one bogey whilst an eagle three at the 17th was some consolation. "We go to too many courses where the members have just finished playing," Monty said. "This is set up for a tournament and this is good for us. I would say that about 80 per cent of the players here are in favour of this type of course. It will sort out the best." Woosnam and Torrance might not agree. At one under par, Monty is six shots adrift of Andrew Oldcorn. Oldcorn, who had a 71, said: "The greens were just spooky. It was almost pot luck. Anybody who has made the cut can win."

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