Golf: Woosnam is unmoved in driving seat: Montgomerie remains confident

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The Independent Online
IAN WOOSNAM and Colin Montgomerie have taken similar routes to the top of the leaderboard at the half-way stage of the Volvo Masters and will play together in the third round here today. However, there is a significant difference between them, not just a question of size. Little Woosie does not much care for Valderrama while Big Monty heads the fan club of one of the most formidable courses in Europe.

Only six players were under par after the first round and that was reduced to four after the second. Woosnam, despite back trouble, scored 67, the best round thus far, and he leads by one stroke from Montgomerie and by two from Paul Way and David Gilford. Do you like the course, Woosnam was asked. 'Not particularly.'

The greens, Woosnam said, are so delicate they get disfigured by players' spike marks. The Ryder Cup comes to Spain in 1997 and Valderrama is making a strong bid to host it. Would it be a good venue, Woosnam was asked. 'I'm not answering that. You're not sucking me into that one.'

Montgomerie's response to the same question was: 'Excellent.' He described it as a 'great course'. Montgomerie, and his Ryder Cup partner Nick Faldo, had the worst of the weather yesterday afternoon and when they turned for home they found themselves playing into heavy rain and strong winds. Woosnam was home and dry before the storm clouds gathered.

Montgomerie, beaten in a play- off here 12 months ago, got to five under but dropped shots at the 16th and 18th. The rain whipped in from the direction of Gibraltar which meant that the closing holes were a real slog. The 17th, a par five of 508 yards, has been redesigned by Seve Ballesteros. Ideally, the green, which has a lake in front of it, should be reached in two shots. Big Monty's strength around Valderrama is the accuracy of his driving but at the 17th he hit driver, driver and was still 100 yards shy. Faldo was fortunate to escape with a par. He hit driver, five-iron, five-iron. Playing his third shot, he was 155 yards short and his ball pitched into the bank of the lake, four inches above the hazard line. He was allowed to move his ball and place it.

Jaime Ortiz-Patino, the owner of Valderrama, said of the 17th: 'The design has not lacked deliberation. Seve worked out a plan and his engineer visited us on three occasions during construction. I only hope I have interpreted his ideas correctly. Have we got it right or will some fine tuning be needed?'

Faldo was diplomatic about the 17th. 'I can't say anything.' It is a pity Ballesteros is not here to play it. He withdrew from the tournament because his back is playing up. Woosnam's complaint is spondylitis and Faldo's is tendinitis. However, the sponsors have made them an offer they cannot refuse. There is pounds 1.2m to play for and if Faldo is still the leader of the Order of Merit tomorrow evening, he receives a bonus of pounds 125,000.

Faldo and Montgomerie both shot 70 but the Englishman is suffering. When he leaves Valderrama he will not hit a ball for three weeks. On the basis that he is not labouring under any discernible malady, Big Monty is sounding ultra confident. 'I was one stroke behind the lead after the first round and I'm one behind now,' he said.

If Woosnam, third in the Order of Merit, wins the championship, Faldo cannot afford to finish lower than second to retain his place at the top of the money list. Montgomerie, fifth in the Merit table, had played in 23 events, Faldo in 13, Woosnam in 14. 'I never thought about finishing No 1,' Woosnam said. 'If I had, I could have played in more tournaments.'

VOLVO MASTERS (Valderrama, Sp) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 138 I Woosnam 71 67. 139 C Montgomerie 69 70. 140 D Gilford 68 72; P Way 71 69. 142 D Clarke 69 73. 143 B Langer (Ger) 72 71; M A Jimenez (Sp) 73 70; R Chapman 71 72. 144 S Torrance 74 70; V Singh (Fiji) 72 72; J-M Olazabal (Sp) 70 74; N Faldo 74 70. 145 E Romero (Arg) 70 75; J Parnevik (Swe) 70 75; J Haeggman (Swe) 73 72; E Els (SA) 73 72. 146 C Mason 76 70; D Feherty 72 74; C Rocca (It) 75 71; H Clark 72 74; M McNulty (Zim) 73 73. 147 J Coceres (Arg) 74 73; J Spence 75 72; P Fowler (Aus) 73 74; A Oldcorn 72 75; R Goosen (SA) 72 75; A Forsbrand (Swe) 72 75; J Van de Velde (Fr) 73 74; D Smyth 77 70; B Lane 73 74; G Brand Jnr 71 76; F Nobilo (NZ) 72 75.