Golf: Woosnam in swing

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The Independent Online
IAN WOOSNAM, who says he is still swinging differently every time he plays, would not be too unhappy if yesterday's efforts were to become a permanent feature. He shot a four-under-par 67 to lead an impressive field after the first round of the Piaget Belgian Open at Royal Zoute.

He then made clear his disagreement with Severiano Ballesteros on the length of the European Tour. 'Everyone is entitled to their opinion,' Woosnam said diplomatically, 'but if Seve thinks the Tour is too long he doesn't have to play in every event. A lot of tournaments are good for the lads who are coming up. They have the chance to play in more events if some of the top players are missing. I don't think you can have enough tournaments.'

On the course, Woosnam was just as positive, playing almost flawless golf with four birdies and 14 pars on his card around a course he described as 'the best we have played in a long time'.

He leads by one shot from Jim Payne and Barry Lane, and by two from five others, including Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle. Ballesteros, despite playing indifferently, scrambled round in 70, three shots off the pace, but Bernard Langer faded to a 75.

Woosnam said he would like to see more difficult courses on the European Tour and in that he found an ally in Faldo. After shooting three birdies and only one bogey on his card, Faldo said: 'This sort of course suits me fine. Every shot is interesting. It makes quite a change for Europe.'

Lyle had no complaints either after getting one of the day's rare eagles with a three at the 531-yard 12th, where he was down with a drive, a six-iron, which flew 204 yards, and a 15-foot putt.

'You have to keep in the comfort zone on this course,' he said, 'because it's difficult to get shots back. I only had one birdie to go with the eagle but only one bogey. So I'm happy.'

Perhaps the happiest man yesterday was Jim Payne, the former Walker Cup player now in his rookie professional year. He only received a sponsor's invitation on Monday evening because Gary Evans had withdrawn with a wrist injury and, with four birdies and only one bogey, has put himself into contention.

Lane, like Payne, shot 68 and said: 'I've been playing well all year so I just hope to maintain it.'

BELGIAN OPEN (Royal Zoute Golf Club, Knokke): First-round leaders (GB or Irl unless stated): 67 I Woosnam. 68 B Lane, J Payne. 69 D Clarke, N Faldo, P Hall, S Lyle, T Charnley. 70 J Bland (SA), S Ballesteros (Sp), R Lee, G J Turner (NZ), P Walton, E Romero (Arg), M James. 71 S Torrance, P Baker, S Bennett, R Rafferty, A Hunter, B Ogle (Aus), S Richardson, R Karlsson (Swe), M A Jimenez (Sp), C Morton, J Parnevik (Swe), D Mijovic (Can), P Fowler (Aus), M Poxon. 72 A Sorensen (Den), S McAllister, G Day (US), W Westner (SA), P-U Johansson (Swe), P Curry, R Drummond, M Davis, P Way, J Rutledge (Can), M Lanner (Swe), P Senior (Aus), G Levenson (SA), G Brand Jnr, A Sherborne, G Turner, M Miller, T Giedeon (Ger). 73 R Hartmann (US), M Moreno (Sp), C Montgomerie, M Farry (Fra), J Sewell, R Claydon, D Smyth, D J Russell, E Els (SA), F Lindgren (Swe), H Baiocchi (SA), J Townsend (US), W Riley (Aus). Selected: 75 A Forsbrand (Swe); B Langer (Ger). 77 R Davis (Aus). 78 M McNulty (Zim).