Woosnam finds better form by playing alone

As the final round of the NEC World Championship got under way here yesterday, it was easy to conclude that all Tiger Woods needed to do to win the tournament was get out of bed given that he held a nine-stroke overnight advantage.

As the final round of the NEC World Championship got under way here yesterday, it was easy to conclude that all Tiger Woods needed to do to win the tournament was get out of bed given that he held a nine-stroke overnight advantage.

At the start of the day Ian Woosnam raced round the 18 holes in just 136 minutes - and played them better than he had all week. Woosnam teed off on his own in joint last position on seven over par - 25 strokes behind Woods - and played the front nine in one-under 34 in 68 minutes. That was four strokes better than he managed on the first three days, and the Welshman then completed the inward half in exactly the same time and in only one more shot. He bogeyed the short 15th but finished with a curling 15-foot birdie putt for a 69 and a six-over aggregate of 286.

However, as Woosnam headed for his plane home, he had lifted himself only one place to 36th of the 37 starters but was still guaranteed more than £20,000 for his week's work. Woosnam said: "That's the first time I've ever played on my own. It was good, there was no fuss, and I didn't have to wait for anybody. I've always been a quick player and I could just get on with it." But he missed the US Tour record for the fastest round by 13 minutes - John Daly and Mark Calcavecchia played the final round of the 1992 Players' Championship in 123 minutes and were fined for not taking more care. Daly shot an 80, Calcavecchia 81.

There were no officials waiting to penalise Woosnam for speeding, and attention turned back to the quest for the million-dollar first prize.

Woods is seeking his eighth win of the season - and fifth in his last seven starts, with three of those the US Open, Open and US PGA Championships.

Woods has been earning at the phenomenal rate of more than $100,000 (£66,666) per round this year, and the million-dollar winner's cheque would take him past his own record worldwide earnings of $7.6m set last year, when he had 11 solo victories and one with Mark O'Meara in the World Cup.

Phil Mickelson, Hal Sutton and the Welshman Phil Price, for whom the final round presented a chance to earn three times his previous biggest payday, were tied in second place on nine under par after three rounds. If Price, only 75th in the world, could finish second on his own he would go home with £335,683. His previous biggest cheque was £111,000 for second place at the Benson and Hedges International at The Belfry in May.

Colin Montgomerie resumed in eighth place and Andrew Coltart in ninth, while Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, Europe's top two this season, were paired together in joint 12th.

With the event counting towards the Order of Merit, their duel could have great significance in the final outcome of that race. Westwood, with £1.2m, leads the Ulsterman by less than £50,000.

But their chances of a big cheque receded when the Worksop player bogeyed the long second and Clarke dropped a shot at the fourth. It immediately sent him down to joint 20th spot.

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