Practice makes far from perfect for bewildered Westner

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The Independent Online


reports from Sun City

Wayne Westner could be forgiven for being confused. There are two tournaments, two tours, two courses, two players having won two events in a row, and two leaders, one of them the world No 2.

The Dimension Data Pro-am has competitions for the professionals and the amateurs, is co-sanctioned by the European and the South African tours and is being played on the Gary Player and the Lost City courses here. Ian Woosnam and the South African Westner, double winners on their respective tours, lay six shots and four shots behind the leaders, Sven Struver and Nick Price.

Or did, until Westner, who shot a level-par 72 at Lost City in the morning, returned to the Gary Player course in the afternoon, walked on to the 10th tee and hit 10 five-iron shots. Under Rule 7/1b, he was disqualified for practising on the course during a tournament. The Player course annually stages the Million Dollar Challenge, and as it has no practice range, the 10th tee is used instead.

"Every time there is a tournament at Sun City, that is the practice tee," Westner said. "I had no idea they had decreed it was part of the course, but the rule is very clear. It is a shame because the Player course is my favourite."

Andy McFee, the European tour's Tournament Director was ready with an explanation. "The ruling is there to make it fair for all the competitors," he said. "There is a properly manned practice range at the Lost City." To his credit,Westner accepted the situation without demur. "It can't be easy for the guy to disqualify someone who has won two tournaments in a row, but he did the right thing."

Price, returning from a seven-week break, was untroubled during his four- under 68 by the intercostal muscle strain he suffered when sneezing two weeks ago. The Zimbabwean's five birdies at Lost City included a 25-foot putt at the 13th, where the green is in the shape of Africa and is guarded by a pit containing 35 crocodiles.

Yesterday, the Player course was playing the longer and harder of the two, which made Struver's feat of hitting all 18 greens in regulation highly commendable. He hit all 18 at Valderrama last October, which takes some doing. "A 68 today was the worst score I could have done, which is a nice feeling."

Woosnam struggled to a two-over-par 74, which included two double-bogeys. At the short seventh, he took three to the green after two poor chips, and he lost a ball off the tee on the right at the par-five 14th.

"It was difficult to get up for it," Woosnam said. "Compared to having 25,000 watching you last week, there was no atmosphere."

DIMENSION DATA PRO-AM (Sun City, South Africa) Leading first-round scores (SA unless stated): 68 S Struver (Ger); N Price (Zim). 69 M McNulty (Zim); B Pappas; R Kaplan; S van der Merwe. 71 P Lawrie (Sco); D Terblanche; M Christie (US); A Cejka (Ger); R Butcher (US); M Gortana (It); M Hallberg (Swe); C Davison; P Price (Wal); C Whitelaw. Selected GB: 74 I Woosnam (Wal). 79 D Feherty (N Irl).