Woosnam stressed by Olazabal's fowl play

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The Independent Online

Ian Woosnam will be expecting his players to be pulling him out of a few nasty corners in the coming months, so the European captain must have been rather discouraged when he arrived here last night to discover that Jose Maria Olazabal has seemingly chosen to back him into one.

The BMW International Open, which begins tomorrow, is the final qualifying event for Woosnam's team and after its denouement on Sunday he must name his two wild-cards to complete his dozen to take on America at the K Club in three weeks' time.

The Welshman had been hoping that his selection would be straightforward, what with two obvious choices in Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood waiting by to join the other golfing galacticos obligingly filling the top 10 of the stand-ins.

But Olazabal has given him a headache which could just ruin his week, his Cup, his year.

For, despite being by no means certain of qualifying automatically, the Spaniard has decided to go quail hunting in the Toledo mountains this week instead of points hunting. And worse than that, the popular 40-year-old yesterday piled the pressure upon Woosnam by declaring that he expects to play, no matter what conspires in Germany.

"If I don't keep my place on the team it will hurt," he said. "But if I don't get a wild-card it will hurt even more." He and Woosnam both, because if, as expected, Colin Montgomerie finishes 49th or better, Olazabal will be shunted out of the top five on the world's rankings points list and suddenly be in the highly precarious placing of fifth on the European Tour points list, the last qualifying berth on the two tables.

All it would take, then, would be for Paul Broadhurst to finish in the top three, or Johan Edfors to come first or second, or John Bickerton to win and Woosnam would have to leave probably either Westwood or Olazabal at home. The latter was not to be shifted from his plans, however.

The world No 16, who admits that he has not been in touch with Woosnam for three months, said: "I've played that course in Munich before. I shoot 15 under and end up 30th. It's a birdie parade and I'm tired. If I did go I'd be having only one week off before the Ryder Cup and there'd be no point in me getting there like that.

"Yes, that means it now depends on what others might do, but I think I have done my job even though I'm not certain of my place. I've never given up. I've fought all the way." Except to Bavaria, it seems.

Meanwhile at the K Club, the American team were finishing off their two-day bonding trip with another round on the Palmer Course before jetting back this morning. Last night, they were due to visit a local hostelry to raise a toast to Tiger Woods. Yesterday was 10 years to the day that Woods hit his first competitive shot as a professional; a decade during which he has dominated every area of the game. Except the Ryder Cup, of course.