Woosnam considers surgery

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Ian Woosnam, still challenging Colin Montgomerie for the European No 1 spot, believes he may need surgery on his injured back once the European Tour ends later this month.

Yet, despite the pain, the 38-year-old Welshman shot a three-under-par 69 at the Linde German Masters in Berlin yesterday, one shot better than Montgomerie.

Woosnam's 69 left him only three shots off the pace behind five joint leaders - fellow Welshman Mark Mouland, Irishman Paul McGinley, France's Marc Farry, England's Peter Baker and the Argentinian Jose Coceres, who all took advantage of one of the easiest courses on the Tour to shoot 66.

Despite his good score, Woosnam was far from pleased. "My back is still very sore and the problem is spreading to my calf muscles," he said. "I don't have any pain in my calves but it seems as though they are burning up and I can hardly walk 100 yards without feeling them.

"I can't hit long irons with the right timing. I can't get through the ball and can only use my arms. I have been told I really need surgery and I am seriously thinking about it. I am not playing next week and hope to see my surgeon, Brian Simpson, in Cardiff in the next few days to see what he says."

Montgomerie, who is pounds 143,347 ahead of Woosnam in the Volvo Rankings and looks certain to finish as European No 1 for the fourth successive year, was also unhappy but not because of any fitness problems. The 33-year-old Scot was four under par after 13 holes and poised to challenge for the lead when he had a double-bogey six at the 16th to fall back to two under.

"It was one of those things," he said. "I got a flyer out of the rough with my six-iron and went over the back of the green, chipped back and three-putted from 20 feet." When asked if he was aware that Woosnam was one shot head of him his response was sharp. "No, I am not interested in his score. Only my own."

The South African Ernie Els, who will be defending the World Matchplay Championship he has won for the past two years, at Wentworth in two weeks' time, played with Montgomerie and thanks to a four-birdie back nine, shot 68, four under par.

Of the five leaders, McGinley will be the most unhappy as his only bogey of the round came at the final hole where he went over the back with his second shot and could not get up and down. Baker, keen to regain a Ryder Cup spot, made his score with four birdies in his last 10 holes while playing partner Coceres had five in the same spell.

Mouland joined the leaders with five birdies in his last eight holes, while Farry said: "I just had one of those days where everything went my way. Every time I had a chance of a birdie the putt went in."

n Laura Davies made an impressive start to her bid for a second Japanese title this season by sharing second place after the first round of the Takara World Invitational in Sanbu, Japan. Davies, who had four birdies and two bogeys, recorded a two-under-par 70 to lie alongside Natsuko Noro and Kikuko Shibata, and one stroke behind Fumiko Omata. The first prize of pounds 86,000 makes it Japan's richest women's golf event.