Woosnam recaptures the graceful swing of success

Click to follow

Each evening at the Cisco World Match Play Ian Woosnam's routine was to enjoy a couple of beers while receiving a reviving massage. The masterplan got the 43-year-old Woosie through 128 holes of golf in four days and victories over an impressive quartet of Retief Goosen, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington. On Sunday night he dispensed with the massage and concentrated on his liquid intake. "I'll have a headache in the morning but I don't care," he said.

Woosnam only received an invitation to the event a fortnight ago. There could be no more popular winner of an event that had been panned in some quarters for the lack of any top Americans, or any Americans at all. "The majority of the crowd seemed to be with me," Woosie said of the final in which he beat Harrington 2 and 1. "Whether it was the Open, I don't know. Maybe they just wanted an older guy to win."

At Lytham in July, Woosnam lost a chance to win The Open when he had to declare a two-shot penalty on himself after the first hole for having an illegal 15th club in his bag. The Welshman stuck by his caddie, Myles Byrne, at the time but not when the Irishman failed to turn up for a later event. These days his bagman gets constant reminds to count the clubs. No one bothers to say the same to Woosnam. "You know what I'd say if they did," he said. It would not be polite.

Woosnam is president of the World Snooker Association. Something golfers and snooker players share is the calling of penalty shots on themselves for an error no one else has seen. Harrington did just that at the ninth hole on Sunday afternoon when his ball moved in the trees as he addressed it. Harrington lost the hole and Woosnam ruthlessly took advantage of the swing in momentum to go from one down to two up from the 11th tee to the 13th green.

It was Woosnam's 40th professional victory and he became the fifth player to win the World Match Play at least three times, joining Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Ernie Els. Woosie, at his best, always had the most effortless swish for a swing and after two years working with the coach Pete Cowen, he has recaptured the graceful action.

"I struggled for a few years with back problems but I have worked really hard for the last two years with Pete and it is great to play as well as I did this week," Woosie said. "That's how I want to play the game. You are always after the perfect shot and I hit a lot of near-perfect shots today. When I don't play like that, I don't want to play. It is difficult when you are chomping and hacking it about. I was really getting fed up with the game."

With the long putter working as well as it did last week, Woosnam believes he can still be a force in the majors. "I'm looking forward to the Masters and the Open. I prefer it when the courses are set up harder. My long putter doesn't work so well on the quick, slopey greens in the States but I have to stick with it."

As for Harrington, he was extremely disappointed with his seventh second place of the year, and the 16th of his career. "The run doesn't bother me in the slightest," he said. "Finishing second in a tournament can be a great performance. But at the individual event when I'm second, it does bother me. It looks like I don't like to finish the job off. I'm certainly not finishing it off. Something must change down the home stretch. Disappointed is not the word for how I feel about today. Disgusted is the word. The ball was in my court and it was totally my fault that he was not under pressure playing the back nine. I lost concentration. 'Why?' is the unanswered question.

"I can't always say I got unlucky or that someone else did something. It is up to me to do something. I'm reasonably patient, but I am beginning to lose my patience about this."