Weekly injections costing £200 a time to ease a career-threatening back injury could prove to be a bargain for Ian Woosnam. The Ryder Cup captain added a second-round 66 to his opening 65 to lie one shot off the lead at the halfway stage of the Players' Championship here in Hamburg yesterday. Sweden's Robert Karlsson leads on 14 under with Woosnam in a share of second alongside the first-round leader Lee Westwood, who hit a second-round 68 and Scotland's Gary Orr (64).
The world No 5 Retief Goosen is a shot further back on 12 under with the Ryder Cup team-mates Luke Donald (66) and Padraig Harrington (65) another stroke adrift on a crowded leader board.
Victory tomorrow would be Woosnam's first in a strokeplay event since 1997 and worth £410,000, more than double his previous biggest cheque in a professional career spanning 30 years.
The 48-year-old Welshman was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis back in 1987 and has been taking anti-inflammatories ever since, but revealed that a new treatment was working wonders. "I spoke to Michael King [a former European Tour player] six weeks ago and after taking these injections he's like a new man," he said. "I decided to take them four weeks ago and it's made a big difference. It's taken a lot of stiffness out of my back and given me the freedom to swing.
"It's called TNF and was developed about 10 years ago for rheumatoid arthritis I think, and then they started using it on ankylosing spondylitis and I've had great success with it. It's once a week, a bit like an insulin injection. You just do it yourself and I've seen the benefits already.If I wanted to keep playing to a reasonable standard, I needed to do this."
Woosnam could become the oldest ever tour winner, succeeding his Ryder Cup vice-captain Des Smyth who was 48 years and 34 days old when he won the Madeira Island Open in 2001. Woosnam will be 48 years and 150 days old tomorrow.
* England's Laura Davies eagled the 18th for a joint best of the day 67 and looked forward to staging a title charge in tomorrow's final round of the Evian Masters in France. On a 10-under total of 206, the 42-year-old was in joint third with South Korea's Se Ri Pak, and just two shots behind Australia's Karrie Webb, who had a 69 and led by one from 16-year-old American Michelle Wie.