Torrance's Ryder Cup charges find their form

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The Independent Online

The European Ryder Cup captain, Sam Torrance, received a timely form and fitness boost before next month's event, despite making an early exit from the Linde German Masters here.

Torrance pulled out before the start of play with a back injury that had also forced him to withdraw from the BMW International Open two weeks ago in Munich. But the 49-year-old Scot could take some comfort from the performance of his team members, eight of the nine competing finishing under par yesterday and three overcoming injury worries.

Colin Montgomerie felt no pain from the back injury that has bothered him all season as he hit a 71 on his return to action after a three-week lay-off, and Padraig Harrington was happy with his recovery from an ankle problem after a 69.

"The back is actually settling down and hopefully with the work I'm doing to strengthen it that will continue," said Montgomerie after a round comprising one birdie and 17 pars. "Everything is OK – I played nicely but did not hole any putts, unfortunately. Hopefully, I can get a good round under my belt tomorrow and get back into the tournament."

Thomas Bjorn also shrugged off concern over the neck injury that saw him withdraw from Wednesday's pro-am after three holes as he stormed home in 29 to compile a 67, and Lee Westwood was unlucky not to score better than 70.

Only Phillip Price was over par after a 73 that left him nine shots behind the leader, Stephen Leaney, the Australian scoring 64 for a one-shot lead over the European No 1, Retief Goosen.

Westwood, who has slumped to 133rd in the world rankings, picked up two birdies and an eagle but dropped a shot on the 17th after driving into the water and just failed with a birdie putt from six feet on the last.

"I played well apart from one bad shot on the 17th and I could have shot 65," said the 29-year-old from Worksop, who has not won for two years. "It's typical that I shot 70 but when you are not playing well and trying to turn it around it keeps trying to kick you when you are down.

"But I feel like I am in control of my game and I can aim at the flags."