Woosnam finds form but has long chase to catch Lynn

When Ian Woosnam walked off the course here following the first round of the Nissan Irish Open he was not in the best of moods. Then a blacker cloud descended when he was told on Thursday that Bernhard Langer had been named as captain of Europe's Ryder Cup team for the match against the United States at Oakland Hills, Michigan next year.

The timing of the announcement came as news to the Welshman who was expecting a double-barrelled decision: Langer as leader for 2004 with Woosnam assuming the captaincy at the K Club near Dublin two years later. "Bernhard and I talked about this a long time ago and we agreed that would be the perfect arrangement,'' Woosnam said.

Woosnam, a Ryder Cup stalwart as a player, was a member of Mark James's backroom staff in the conflagrational match at Brookline in 1999. When Sam Torrance succeeded James at The Belfry last year, Woosnam was his vice-captain while Langer made a significant contribution as a playing member of the team.

It is not written in stone, but the deputy expects to take charge sooner or later. Woosnam's cause was not helped by a scuffle in a bar in Jersey recently, an incident for which he apologised. He will not be demanding an apology from the Ryder Cup committee over this latest spat, but nor will he be putting himself forward as a vice-captain to Langer.

"I'm going to try and play my way into the team," he said yesterday. As to the captaincy in 2006 he said: "We'll have to wait and see.'' There is considerable honour in the position and a successful captain can also find it a very lucrative experience, through sponsorship, company days, books and speaking engagements. Torrance is not complaining.

At least Woosnam made the halfway cut yesterday to guarantee himself a cheque, returning a 70 in the second round for a halfway aggregate of 142, two under par. It was a considerable improvement on his semi-collapse in the Open Championship, in which he scored 80 in the third round, but it still left him eight strokes adrift of the leader, David Lynn.

To lift his spirits the Englishman likes to read some choice quotations on his mobile phone, such as: "The road to success is always under construction.'' Quite so.

One man who knows all about unfinished roads and potholes is Sébastien Delagrange. The Frenchman, who is 226th in the European tour money list with £9,433.78, was disqualified for signing for a wrong score. Delagrange inadvertently signed for a four instead of a five on the par five 16th during the first round. He finished with a 73 which should have been a 74. It was not until he woke up yesterday morning that he realised his error, informed officials and left on a premature trip home.

Portmarnock, considered one of the best links in Europe, has been lengthened to 7,363 yards, making it the longest course on the European tour. It did not stop Lynn from breezing round in 65, despite the fact that this is his first visit here and he did not even bother with a practice round.

"I didn't turn up till midday on Wednesday, the weather wasn't great so I decided to stay on the putting green,'' Lynn said. "My caddie walked the course and I saw it for the first time on Thursday afternoon.'' Lynn had eight birdies and not surprisingly his putter was his favourite club and he did not just use it on the greens. When he missed the target he often left his wedge in the bag and putted from the swales and dips, holing one of them for a birdie at the 16th.

From Trentham in the Potteries, Lynn's deadly accuracy yesterday was a good endorsement of his sponsor, Specsavers Opticians. He wears their contact lenses. Lynn, whose CV could be an advertisement for wafers (it is very thin) does contain the fact that he won the Greek Amateur Championship in 1994. The following year he turned professional.

Lynn, who made his debut in the Open last week after qualifying by finishing 14th in the Scottish Open, scored well at the beginning of the season but then lost focus, which is not such good news for his sponsor. "It just goes off a bit in the middle," he said. "I get a bit stale, a bit bored. It can get monotonous at times. I started doing some psychology work. If you are not achieving what you want that's when it gets mundane. This is my fifth year on tour and it kicks in every season at some point.''

Lynn's round was a stroke outside the course record set on Thursday by Thomas Bjorn. All the excitement of the past week caught up with the Dane who yesterday followed up his 64 with a 74. At six under for the tournament he is four off the pace. As he drifted, one of his playing partners, Michael Campbell, advanced to nine under after a 69, but the third member of their group, the local hero Padraig Harrington, made an early exit. The Dubliner's 76 left him one over par, one stroke above the cut.

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