Woosnam, who is 10th in the Ryder Cup table, scored 67 to move up the leaderboard after the second round of the Murphy's English Open at the Forest of Arden, but it was not exactly a model performance. 'It's a strange game,' he said, echoing the sentiments of anybody who has ever picked up a club. 'One minute I'm playing well and I can't putt, the next I'm playing badly and putting great. I can't put my finger on it.'
Yesterday he drove erratically but holed a number of putts that helped him to six birdies. A lack of confidence on the greens has tended to undermine his scores all season and he is experimenting with a stance employed by Gary Player. He first practised it in his hotel bedroom. 'It feels terrible but it works,' he said. 'My right knee is locked and it helps me to keep my head down. I'm still a bit dubious about it. Let's see how long it lasts.'
Four of his birdies came over the back nine despite the fact that he could hardly find a fairway and was continually hitting irons out of the rough. 'I don't know where to aim,' Woosnam said. 'If I aim right it goes left.'
The longest putt Woosnam holed was from 15 feet. In contrast Baker, who is eighth in the pecking order, sank a few from massive distances en route to a course record of 65. He was particularly successful on the par threes, gaining birdies on three of them.
At the eighth he was on the right fringe and holed from 45 feet; at the 15th he made it from 25 feet and at the 18th he sank one from around 40 feet.
Before he went out he noticed that some of his closest rivals in the Cup standings, Costantino Rocca, of Italy, and Joakim Haeggman, of Sweden, were on the leaderboard. Baker, who is enjoying a fabulous season, shot 74 in the first round, taking a seven at the seventh. Yesterday he birdied it. 'I couldn't afford to miss the cut,' Baker said. 'It was probably the most important round of the year.'
He lives 30 miles from the course and has been driving back and forth with his coach Denis Sheehy, one of David Leadbetter's assistants. Sheehy is spending the week with the Baker family and on Thursday evening they had a two and a half hour session at Baker's local club, South Staffs. 'It was relaxing as well as beneficial,' Baker said. 'My coach brought me a cup of tea in bed. I couldn't believe it.'
Baker is two shots off the lead, shared by Tony Johnstone and Jose- Maria Canizares, and one behind Woosnam, Rocca and Jose Rivero. Rocca, who is on the verge of becoming the first Italian to play in the Ryder Cup, has won two tournaments this season and, despite the fact that he uses a lurid green putter, had six birdies.
At the 12th he holed from around 100 feet, even longer than the outrageous putt Vicente Fernandez made at The Belfry 12 months ago to win this championship.
Pierre Fulke, of Sweden, did not need his putter at the 18th, getting an ace at a hole which measures 210 yards. Had he had a hole in one at the 15th he would have won 13,750 pints of Murphy's Irish Stout or the cash equivalent of pounds 12,650. Alternatively, if Fulke's fluke had occured at the 18th on Sunday the crowd would have had their entry money refunded.
Sam Torrance, sixth in the Cup table, withdrew from the championship yesterday morning. Torrance, who scored 78 in the first round, has painful bruising on his chest. He went sleep walking on Tuesday night and collided with a large plant pot. Flower of Scotland it was not.
MURPHY'S ENGLISH OPEN (Forest of Arden) Leading second-round scores (GB and Irl unless stated; qualifiers only): 137 T Johnstone (Zim) 66 71; J M Canizares (Sp) 66 71. 138 I Woosnam 71 67; C Rocca (It) 70 68; J Rivero (Sp) 69 69; J Hawkes (SA) 70 68. 139 J Haeggman (Swe) 70 69; B Marchbank 70 69; P Baker 74 65; S Richardson 67 72; P Curry 69 70; P Fowler (Aus) 68 71. 140 H Clark 71 69; D Gilford 70 70; G Brand jnr 71 69; D Clarke 68 72; V Fernandez (Arg) 69 71; J M Carriles (Sp) 68 72. 141 G Turner (NZ) 71 70; F Nobilo (NZ) 69 72; J Robson 69 72; P-U Johansson (Swe) 68 73; J Parnevik (Swe) 72 69; R Goosen (SA) 74 67; W Westner (SA) 71 70; R Rafferty 73 68; G Orr 70 71; G Cali (It) 69 72; D W Basson (SA) 70 71. 142 G Evans 72 70; P Broadhurst 69 73; P Mitchell 70 72; C O'Connor jnr 70 72; O Karlsson (Swe) 69 73; R Allenby (Aus) 72 70; M James 69 73; P Fulke (Swe) 72 70; M Roe 69 73; A Lyle 72 70; F Lindgren (Swe) 71 71; S Bowman (US) 71 71. 143 M Besanceney (Fr) 71 72; I Garbutt 67 76; P Price 73 70; P Way 68 75; M Pinero (Sp) 73 70; R Willison 71 72; C Cassells 70 73; D Hospital (Sp) 75 68; M Clayton (Aus) 73 70; S Tinning (Den) 69 74; S McAllister 73 70; D Feherty 69 74. 144 P Affleck 71 73; E Romero (Arg) 71 73; B Lane 69 75; R Winchester 68 76; O Sellberg (Swe) 77 67; A Bossert (Swit) 72 72; J Berendt (Arg) 71 73; P Lawrie 70 74; S Little 74 70; T Levet (Fr) 71 73; M Gates 72 72; G J Brand 73 71.