Woosnam philosophical as he chases Open qualifying place

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The Independent Online

Ian Woosnam, hoping to extend a run of appearances in the Open Championship that dates back to 1982, made a steady start in the first round of Final Qualifying at Prince's. But the Welshman knows he has little margin for error in the final round as the scramble for the last spots in the Open intensifies today.

The Prince's links runs alongside the 14th hole at Royal St George's and it must be a galling to be hard at work trying to get a tee-time for Thursday while those who were exempt for the Championship enjoyed a leisurely practice round. Especially for a former Masters champion, who scored a two-under 70 to be four off the lead.

Woosnam pulled out of the Scottish Open on Friday with a neck problem on which he has been getting treatment for a month. But swapping the rain of Loch Lomond for a bit of southern sunshine had eased the problem and he dropped only one stroke while picking up three birdies.

"It was a bit of a struggle, but I managed to get up and down a few times so it was just as well my short game was good," Woosnam said. "I am quite happy with two under, but there are a lot of players chasing a few spots. I will have to play better tomorrow if I am to get in this year. If I make it I will enjoy it. If I don't, I'll have the week off."

Woosnam, who was penalised two shots in the final round two years ago for having a club too many in his bag, had no problem with having to qualify. "I have never won this tournament so it is only right," he said. "But if I get in, I feel I can win it because St George's is one of my favourite courses."

The sea breeze got up in the afternoon making conditions at Prince's and Royal Cinque Ports at Deal particularly tricky. Steven Tiley played early at Deal, but even so a 67 from the 20-year-old Kentish amateur was a superb effort not bettered on a day when many players failed to break 80.

Tiley, from Herne Bay, is a member at both Cinque Ports and Canterbury and though he was playing on home turf his score was three better than his previous best off the lengthened championship tees when winning the Prince of Wales Trophy earlier this season. Due to the extra yardage, the score also counted as an amateur record, so Tiley joined a distinguished roll of honour that saw Sir Michael Bonallack hold the amateur record for many years with a 65 in the 1965 Brabazon Trophy.

Tiley, who plays off plus-two, came through the regional qualifying at Orsett last Monday, but another good performance today would see the youngster joining the élite in the Open proper. "I am playing well and kept it on the fairway and out of trouble," said Tiley, who has just completed his first year at the University of South-Eastern Louisiana. "It would be great to be just down the road on Thursday."

Australian Steven Bowditch led the way at Littlestone by three strokes from a with a 65, while Andrew Barnes, the older brother of US Amateur champion Ricky, could make it a family double in the Open after a 69. The one venue where scoring was generally easier was at North Foreland. Nevertheless, Simon Wakefield's 10-under 61 was four better than the rest of the field. The 29-year-old from Newcastle-under-Lyme, the nephew of Bob Taylor, the former England wicketkeeper, produced eight birdies and an eagle at the 13th only four days after an 81 in the first round of the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.

* Kenny Perry fired a four under par 66 to take a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the Milwaukee Open at Brown Deer Park on Saturday. Jay Don Blake, the leader after each of the first two rounds, settled for a 71 and was part of a group of six just behind Perry. Brenden Pappas, Heath Slocum, Steve Allan, Patrick Sheehan and Jerry Kelly are the others.

* Juli Inkster shot a five-under 67 in the rain-delayed third round of the Canadian Women's Open at Point Grey, Vancouver on Saturday to share the lead with Beth Daniel. Kim Saiki was two strokes back after a 69. Britain's Laura Davies hit a 74 for a total of 215.