Westwood beats shakes to stake claim

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is not a wild card that Ian Woosnam should be giving to Lee Westwood so much as a get well card. If ever a sportsman has proved his commitment to a captain, then it was this English golfer here who could barely walk up the final fairway but still got within one shot of the first-round lead yesterday.

Under the circumstances Westwood's 68 must be judged one of the finest rounds of the year, and if the Welshman does not name him as one of his two picks at his Ryder Cup team announcement on Sunday evening it will surely be the cruellest sporting snub of the year.

For it was Woosnam who urged Westwood to leave his sickbed to play in this BMW International Open and it was Woosnam who should have been most impressed when his K Club wannabe somehow ignored the debilitating effects of tonsillitis to fire an eagle, two birdies and no bogeys on his way to within sniffing distance of the group on five-under, including David Howell.

As a gauge of the 33-year-old's heroics, Fred Couples, who was in the adjoining hotel room in Akron last week and who apparently picked up the same bug, has been hospitalised by the effects. "I shouldn't be playing golf," said Westwood, this frequently ill golfer who is wearing patches all over his skin here to discover how many body minerals he is losing.

"I have a high temperature, feel totally rotten and my legs started shaking at the end today. I haven't played since last Friday, have made a 14-hour transatlantic trip home, stayed in my bed for two days and come over at the last minute yesterday. You could say I was underprepared.

"In fact, my main goals today were to stay upright and show Woosie how much I want it. I hope he was watching. I was proud of what I did out there."

So he should be and if Jose Maria Olazabal had not been busy yesterday, halfway up a Toledo mountain hunting for quail, then he might have been embarrassed at his opting not to compete in Bavaria, so tempting the possibility of being knocked out of the automatic standings and leaving Woosnam facing a horrid decision - try selecting two from Darren Clarke, Westwood and Olazabal.

Woosnam will be pleased, therefore, that those who could dislodge the lesser conquistador are not yet high enough on the leader board to endanger his fingernails. Thomas Bjorn needs to win but is four behind, Paul Broadhurst needs to finish in the top three but is five behind, as is Johan Edfors (first or second), while John Bickerton's dreams are all but dead at one-over.

Nevertheless, Colin Montgomerie was still aghast at his team-mate's absence, especially as Olazabal cited "tiredness" as his reason. "Look, there's a long winter to be tired," said Montgomerie, whose 70 was just a number of significant Ryder Cup fillips, what with Howell setting the pace and Luke Donald alongside Westwood. "I am very surprised not to see him here."