reports from Stuttgart
If Bernard Gallacher, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, had to complete the composition of his team to face America purely on the basis of the first round here, there would be no contest. By last night the Eurovision votes were coming in for Jesper Parnevik with Ian Woosnam off the leaderboard.
The disgruntled Welshman, 13th in the Cup table, shot 69, two under par, in the first round of the Volvo German Open. That might be a perfectly reasonable score under other circumstances but not here. His performance on the greens had him grinding his teeth.
"The greens are too slow for me but really it is just that my putting is hopeless," Woosnam said. "I have no idea." He declined a request to come into the press tent, perhaps on the grounds that he would miss the entrance. Paul Affleck, another Welshman, leads the championship at seven under following a 64. A stroke further back is the Scotsman Paul Lawrie who credits his low round to working with David Leadbetter, Nick Faldo's coach.
Woosnam, who said he is sick to death of the Ryder Cup, was Europe's leading points scorer in the defeat at The Belfry two years ago with four and a half. He is also familiar with Oak Hill in Rochester, the Ryder Cup venue. He was second there to Curtis Strange in the US Open in 1989.
Yesterday Woosnam three-putted on three occasions at the Nippenburg course and on the eighth he missed from 18 inches. He is reluctant to charge his putts because if he misses he is frightened of the short one coming back. Woosnam is sufficiently worried to contemplate using the "broomstick" putter. He practised with it after his round and may use it today. This is a bit like William Tell going for the apple with a blunderbuss.
Woosnam had a chance to study the effect of the pendulum putter at close quarters yesterday. One of his partners was Sam Torrance who has become a successful exponent of the long handle. Torrance, who leads the Order of Merit, celebrated his 42nd birthday yesterday with a visit to a dentist.
"I'm tempted to use it," Woosnam said, "but I have always tried to be a traditionalist. At home last week I tried a long putter on the carpet but it is difficult to go out with it." For some it is the stigma. Using the broomstick is an admission that a once silky, confident touch has somehow evaporated. In mail order terms the elongated putter should only be delivered under a plain wrapper.
Parnevik, 18th in the Cup rankings, was at five under following a 66, a score that seemed to be matched by half the field. Not that the Swede played particularly well. "It was a strange round," Parnevik said. "My game didn't feel very good. I have no idea how I shot 66. I felt I played badly and putted badly. It was amazing but I didn't miss any green. Maybe the course is easier than we expected. I just want to be there on Sunday and have a chance."
The same applies to Darren Clarke, 14th in the Cup reckoning, one place behind Woosnam. Clarke took the 66 route but he might have led but for a number of putts lipping out. "It was as if there was a goalkeeper out there," the Irishman said. "I had a lot of chances and the ball lipped out four or five times." Clarke believes he will have to finish first or second here to get in the team on merit. The difference between Clarke and some of the others is that he actually wants to play in the match against the United States.
Also at five under is Jose Rivero and he too has an opportunity to play his way into the team. Rivero, who will be 40 next month, played in the Ryder Cup in 1985 and 1987. "There are too many players bunched together and not enough places," Rivero said.
The Ryder Cup, for the time being, is of no concern to Affleck. He is over the moon at being selected for Wales in the Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews in October. "It will be the first time I've ever represented my country," Affleck said. "I was never any good as an amateur." He had eight birdies and only dropped a shot at the 12th where he took three putts from 35 feet. Affleck was asked if Woosnam had had an influence on his career. "Only in the respect that I want to do what Ian Woosnam does." At the 12th he did exactly what Woosnam does.
VOLVO GERMAN OPEN (Stuttgart) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 64 P Affleck. 65 P Lawrie. 66 J Rivero (Sp), J Parnevik (Swe), M McLean, P Eales, D Williams, D Clarke. 67 J Coceres (Arg), T Levet (Fr), G Brand Jnr, M James, R Rafferty, A Oldcorn, F Lindgren (Swe), O Rojahn (Nor), M Mackenzie, S Struver (Ger), J Sandelin (Swe), A Sorensen (Den), E Simsek (Ger), P Moloney (Aus), D J Russell, C Cevaer (Fr), P Quirici (Swi), D Carter. 68 M Pinero (Sp), J Payne, I Palmer (SA), S Torrance, H P Thuel (Ger), L Westwood, P Linhart (Sp), N Fasth (Swe), P O'Malley (Aus), D Gilford, P Walton, P McGinley, O Karlsson (Swe). 69 S Richardson, G Orr, P Price, M Davis, G J Brand, P Way, S Luna (Sp), P Teravainen (US), I Woosnam, B Lane, I Pyman, N Henning (SA), S Ames (Trin), J Robinson, G Levenson (SA), W Westner (SA), S Dodd, A Cejka (Ger), C Montgomerie, P Curry, P Fowler (Aus), M Archer, S Watson, D Smyth, M Litton, P-U Johansson (Swe), E Romero (Arg), A Binaghi (It), D Cooper, E Darcy, R Boxall, R Wessels (SA).