Woosnam heads exodus to Sandwich qualifiers

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The Independent Online

Ian Woosnam will carve himself a slice of Open history he would much sooner have avoided at final qualifying which starts tomorrow. The Welshman withdrew from the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond yesterday citing back pain, but was confident of being fit enough to line up at Prince's and so become the first former world No 1 to have to go through the 36-hole Open qualifying since the rankings were introduced in 1986.

It was perhaps understandable that Woosnam wanted to protect his injury, especially as he was standing at six over par after three holes of the second round yesterday and had no chance of making the cut or achieving a high-enough placing to grab one of the Open places on offer.

That something was not right with the 45-year-old was evident by the fact that he was nine over par for his last 12 holes - but he reached yesterday's turn in three under. "He can hardly get through the ball," his caddy, Lee Addelly, said. "He was really struggling."

Despite this prognosis Woosnam, who has played in the last 21 Opens, was determined to continue his run. "I'll get treatment over the next two days and hopefully be OK for qualifying," he said. Without him, the Open will have lost two of its main fixtures of the last three decades after the withdrawal of Seve Ballesteros, also with back trouble, earlier in the week.

Woosnam will not give in easily, however, even with only six places up for grabs in a field of 96 at Prince's. He believes there is unfinished business at the Open after Lytham two years ago where he was penalised two shots for having too many clubs just as he was making his charge at the start of the final round. He had hoped to sidestep qualifying this year by claiming one of the 15 places available at Loch Lomond - seven going to the highest finishers in a mini Order of Merit from the Volvo PGA to this week, and eight to the leading players not otherwise exempt.

With the long trip south awaiting those who did miss the cut - or, indeed, those who decided that qualifying for the Open was too important to hang around a Loch for - it was no surprise to see so many early withdrawals from yesterday's second round.

Norway's Henrik Bjornstad, India's Arjun Atwal and the English duo Warren Bennett and Anthony Wall all pulled out. Retief Goosen, who is exempt from Open qualifying, also withdrew with "a bad back". As one professional said: "There must be a virus going round."