Old iron works for Woosnam

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The Independent Online

A search in his garage paid huge dividends for Ian Woosnam yesterday as he rediscovered form in the French Open at Le Golf National.

A search in his garage paid huge dividends for Ian Woosnam yesterday as he rediscovered form in the French Open at Le Golf National.

Thinking ahead to next Monday's Open qualifying at Sunningdale, Woosnam unearthed a one-iron he reckoned was 21 years old and decided it might have its uses this week. On a course where the rough is thicker than last week's US Open, the 46-year-old stayed out of trouble to shoot a four-under-par 67 to put him one shot behind the South African Darren Fichardt.

Woosnam said of the one-iron: "The loft on it has been bent all sorts of ways and it's had a few shafts in it, but it's it's perfect for here."

The former World No 1, now ranked 278th in the world and 109th on this season's European Order of Merit, has not won since the 2001 World Matchplay at Wentworth and his last strokeplay success was seven years ago. But his revival was not all down to the one-iron. Woosnam also changed his swing, went with a new caddie and switched to a short putter, not without some trepidation.

After starting at the 10th, he was one over at the turn, despite the strong wind. The 1991 Masters champion covered the longer front nine in 31 with birdies at the first, third, fifth, seventh and eighth. But Fichardt, whose two European tour wins have come in Brazil and Qatar, came home in 31 to take the lead when conditions eased.

Woosnam is among a host of stars at the Open qualifier - with Colin Montgomerie, Justin Rose, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal - but he does at least have happy memories of Sunningdale, where he won the 1988 European Open. But while he prospered, others suffered. For the second week running Miguel Angel Jimenez had a nine on his card, the South African Hennie Otto took 10 on the same 596-yard ninth and Swede Klas Eriksson ran up an 11 at the 399-yard 15th.

Langer, the Ryder Cup captain, back after eight weeks out with a wrist injury, double-bogeyed the ninth and 17th in his 77 and Rose double-bogeyed the ninth and 18th for a 75.

Montgomerie also went into the water at the last for a 74, while in the race for Ryder Cup places it was a good day for 10th-placed Ian Poulter, a poor one for ninth-placed Brian Davis and an awful one for sixth-placed Paul Casey. They were one under, four over and six over respectively.

Essex's Simon Khan, in his first appearance since beating Casey in a play-off for the Wales Open, out-scored playing partners Montgomerie with a 73, but defending champion Philip Golding, bothered by tennis elbow, slumped to an 83.

FRENCH OPEN (Paris) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 66 D Fichardt (SA). 67 I Woosnam. 68 R Green (Aus). 69 J-F Remesy (Fra). 70 Ian Poulter, Mark Roe, Cesar Monasterio (Arg), Graeme McDowell. 71 David Howell, David Dixon, Peter Fowler (Aus), Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg), Marcel Siem (Ger). 72 Gordon Brand Jnr, David Lynn, Gregory Havret (Fra), Gary Evans, Markus Brier (Aut), Matthew Blackey. 73 Diego Borrego (Spa), Martin Erlandsson (Swe), Ivo Giner (Spa), Peter O'Malley (Aus), Nick O'Hern (Aus), Andrew Marshall, Jean-Francois Lucquin (Fra), Benjamin Nicolay (Fra), Bradley Dredge, Stephen Dodd, Miguel Angel Martin (Spa), Jarrod Moseley (Aus), Stephen Gallacher, Simon Khan, Jonathan Lomas, John Bickerton. Selected: 74 Jose Maria Olazabal (Spa), Jean Van de Velde (Fra). 75 Justin Rose.