Golf: Woosnam produces a rare masterpiece: Welshman hits back at his critics with 14 birdies in superb back-to-back rounds to take title by four strokes

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IAN WOOSNAM, one of the elite whose commitment to the European Tour rather than to their bank balance has been brought into question here this week, returned to his tax haven in Jersey last night richer by pounds 108,330 after winning the Dunhill British Masters. In two rounds yesterday Woosnam played the Duke's course as if he was lord of the manor, compiling scores of 63 and 67.

He threw in a total of 14 birdies (and no bogeys) to burst from the pack and he won in a style reminiscent of his only other victory this season. In the Cannes Open at the end of April he was in danger of missing the half-way cut and instructed his pilot to warm up the jet. He shot 63 in the third round (as he did here) and won the tournament by five strokes. His margin yesterday, from Seve Ballesteros, was four.

Woosnam - 'I don't read the papers, they're full of crap' - said it was nice to be back in the press room. Perhaps his management company, IMG, read them on his behalf. 'I've been written off,' Woosnam said. 'People have said I've lost interest in the game and I don't seem to be trying. They say I've got a jet and enough money, but everything's still got to be bloody paid for. I've proved a point. I still try but I need something to click and when it does this is what happens.'

As to the debate on the state of the European Tour, Woosnam said: 'It's a great Tour and it will grow stronger. It's good to play in all sorts of different conditions. We need to keep the good players here.' Will he play more in America next year? 'I don't know. It would suit me down to the ground to play both tours.'

Woosnam, who began the day at three under par, went out at 7.55am and enjoyed an early lunch. His 63, which equalled the course record, included nine birdies and some outrageous putts - from 60ft at the sixth, 35ft at the 13th, 25ft at the 17th. 'I was just being careful,' Woosnam said. 'As to the fourth round it's a different ball game. Whoever shoots 67 is going to win.' His prediction was spot on.

Ballesteros, who led by two strokes going into the third round, was in danger of being left behind. Starting at the 10th, he went to the turn in 38, but the sight of Woosnam's name at the top of the leaderboard got him going. He eagled the fourth (his 13th) and birdied the seventh and eighth and a 69 was sufficient, at 13 under par, to give him a one-shot lead over Woosnam and two over Bernhard Langer and Miguel Martin.

The question for Ballesteros and his dodgy back was how effective he would be over 36 holes. In the fourth round a 72 was not sufficient to threaten Woosnam, but it was good enough for second place and pounds 72,210 (or Ryder Cup points). Woosnam now heads the Ryder Cup table from David Gilford, with Ballesteros third.

'In a way I feel I won the tournament, for Ian was playing on a different course from the rest of us,' Ballesteros said. 'To shoot 14 under on the day was fantastic.' Ballesteros, who was up at 5am on Saturday and again yesterday, added: 'I lost my concentration a little because I was tired. To play 36 holes was brutal, but I'm ready to win again.'

At 13 under Ballesteros finished a stroke in front of Langer and Colin Montgomerie, both of whom lost their momentum over the back nine. Nevertheless Montgomerie reinforced his lead at the top of the Order of Merit.

Under normal circumstances, of course, Ballesteros and Woosnam would have been paired together for the final round, but as it was the three-ball order of the third round, with a two-tee start, had to be maintained for the fourth.

Martin, after a 65 in the morning, swept into the lead with birdies on the first five holes in the

afternoon, at which point he was three ahead of Ballesteros and four ahead of Woosnam and Bernhard Langer.

Woosnam had gone out in 34 with nine successive pars and then reeled off four birdies in a row to get to 16 under for the tournament. Martin, who got to 17 under with a birdie on 13, was hit for a double bogey six after finding a bush at the 14th and by the time he finished with a triple bogey eight at the last he had dropped seven strokes in five holes.

'When I saw him banging his club on the ground at the 15th I knew he was in trouble,' Woosnam said. Another birdie on 16 for the Welshman gave him an unassailable lead and what seems to have clicked for him is a consultation with Paul Derby, the former Wolves trainer. 'My swing was more flexible and when I started putting well . . .'

The victory got him into the Johnnie Walker World Championship in Jamaica in December. 'Good,' he said. 'That means some more money.'

DUNHILL BRITISH MASTERS (Woburn) Leading final scores (GB and Irl unless stated): 271 I Woosnam 71 70 63 67. 275 S Ballesteros (Sp) 69 65 69 72. 276 B Langer (Ger) 71 69 65 71, C Montgomerie 72 66 70 68. 277 J Rivero (Sp) 74 67 68 68, E Els (SA) 68 71 70 68. 278 E O'Connell 68 71 69 70, P Walton 72 68 72 66, M A Martin (Spain) 71 69 65 73. 279 S Torrance 70 70 68 71, M Gates 67 70 72 70, A Murray 67 69 72 71. 280 M A Jimenez (Spain) 74 71 69 66, J Haeggman (Swe) 72 73 70 65, N Faldo 71 74 70 65. 281 R Chapman 71 71 71 68, J M Olazabal (Sp) 71 69 71 70. 282 D Williams 74 70 69 69, R Claydon 74 71 70 67. 283 B Lane 70 74 71 68, W Riley (Aus) 78 66 70 69, M Roe 74 70 70 69, E Romero (Arg) 72 71 73 67, I Palmer (SA) 67 74 69 73, P Price 73 72 67 71.

RYDER CUP STANDINGS: 1 I Woosnam (Wal) 114,810pts; 2 D Gilford (Eng) 112,685; 3 S Ballesteros (Sp) 94,825; 4 P Fulke (Swe) 74,150; 5 C Montgomerie (Scot) 66,595; 6 J M Olazabal (Sp) 61,077; 7 C Rocca (It) 59,344; 8 S Torrance (Scot) 54.694; 9 B Lane (Eng) 53,979; 10 B Langer (Ger) 52,425; 11 M Gates (Eng) 35,628; 12 J Van de Velde (Fr) 34,513; 13 H Clark (Eng) 32,511; 14 N Faldo (Eng) 31,693; 15 M A Martin (Sp) 29,679; 16 J Rivero (Sp) 28,620; 17 D Clarke (N Irl) 22,461; 18 C Cassells (Eng) 21,466; 19 R Claydon (Eng) 21,161; 20 P Walton (Irl) 20,288.

EUROPEAN TOUR ORDER OF MERIT: 1 C Montgomerie (Sco) pounds 572,919; 2 B Langer (Ger) 412,545; 3 J M Olazabal (Sp) 376,607; 4 S Ballesteros (Sp) 313,723; 5 M A Jimenez (Sp) 302,353; 6 M Roe (Eng) 286,639; 7 D Gilford (Eng) 286,279; 8 E Els (SA) 257,599; 9 N Faldo (Eng) 253,792; 10 E Romero (Arg) 245,697; 11 I Woosnam (Wal) 227,852; 12 B Lane (Eng) 227,534; 13 M McNulty (Zim) 227,449; 14 H Clark (Eng) 225,870; 15 R Allenby (Aus) 218,772; 16 P Mitchell (Eng) 197,907; 17 C Mason (Eng) 185,136; 18 A Forsbrand (Swe) 175,031; 19 J Parnevik (Swe) 159,133; 20 P Fulke (Swe) 158,536.

(Photograph omitted)

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