Woosnam shakes off snake to lift Welsh hopes

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Ian Woosnam made his 17th appearance in the World Cup here yesterday and rarely can he have experienced such a strange start to the contest.

Woosnam narrowly avoided a confrontation with a snake on his second hole and then saw one of his playing partners from Chile withdraw after nine holes.

Woosnam's approach to the par-five second pitched on the edge of the green, but bounced off into a virtually dry water hazard. That meant he could find his ball and attempt to play on to the green, but only after his playing partner, Bradley Dredge, had pointed out that he had just seen a snake a few feet away. Undeterred, Woosnam attempted to hack his way out only for his ball to bounce further into trouble. Woosnam then took a penalty drop on the edge of the green where the ball had last crossed the hazard and chipped in for a par five.

By then it had become obvious that Chile's Felipe Aguilar was in severe difficulties with a hand injury. Aguilar had tripped up when getting into a minivan on Tuesday and had landed on his left hand. Having battled through qualifying, the 29-year-old attempted to play in the opening four-balls in support of his team-mate, Roy Mackenzie, but was badly hindered when he tried to swing the club.

He did not play the first two holes and, after getting the hand strapped on the second green, carved his tee shot on the third into deep rough. Aguilar completed the sixth hole with a bogey five, but with Chile six-over par by the turn, decided to call it a day. Chile had tried to call up a replacement player, but were not allowed to under tournament rules.

After a bogey on the third, Wales shot birdies at the seventh, eighth, 10th and 11th to go to three-under par. That was just one behind the leaders, France and Germany, Thomas Levet and Raphael Jacquelin hitting four birdies in seven holes, while Alex Cejka and Marcel Siem needed just one more hole to join them at four under.

Scotland's Paul Lawrie and Alastair Forsyth, in the first match out, were one under par after 12, but Ireland's Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington had dropped back to par. The 1997 winners here birdied the first two holes but bogeyed the fifth and sixth. England's Paul Casey and Justin Rose made a slow start, but picked up a birdie each on the fifth and sixth to go to two under.

* The Open champion, Ben Curtis, shot a seven-under-par 65 to lead after the first round of the Taiheiyo Masters in Shizuoka, Japan.