Woosnam puts his back into it

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The Independent Online
JOHN DALY and Ian Woosnam, the long and the short of it, may be unlikely companions on a quest for redemption in anything other than golfing matters. Yesterday they teed up in the final group at the Heineken Classic in Perth knowing they had handsomely repaid the organisers.

Two years ago, Woosnam shot 81 and 78 to miss the cut. His only activity that weekend was to give a clinic with Ian Baker-Finch. Last year Daly was the star-billing, and was nine shots the wrong side of the cut.

But yesterday, Woosnam broke the Vines course-record with a seven-under 67, and Daly shot a 65 to share the third-round lead on 11-under. "It is amazing how things can change," said Woosnam, who is seeking back-to- back wins, something he is prone to when he hits form. His victory in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Singapore last week was his first for 16 months.

"For the first two days, I didn't play that well, just tried to keep it in play," he said. "But today I started to hit my irons really solidly." Woosnam was out in 32, a 25-foot putt at the fifth, after hitting a tree with his second, to save par.

He found a bush at the 12th for his only bogey, but responded by firing a seven-iron that hit the flag at the 14th. He birdied the next as well. He pitched to 10 feet at the par-five last for his eighth birdie of the round.

A visit to his back specialist has given the Welshman peace of mind: "He said, 'Don't lift anything and don't do any exercise'. I thought that was great. He said, 'Do some swimming, now and again'. Now and again. I thought, 'This is for me'. I've tried doing all the right things, exercising all winter two years ago, and trying to change my swing, but that is all a load of rubbish. I went to a sports psychologist, but that was a load of crap.

"I became the best in the world and thought I had to change to stay the best, but I shouldn't have done that. The formula for me is relaxation. It was very important for me after a bad '95 to bounce back so quickly last week."

Daly, who came home in 31 despite failing to birdie the last, was most happy about setting a personal milestone. "Not hitting a driver for 36 holes was a record for me, and now it's 54 holes. I hope it goes to 72 holes. If I keep hitting my one-iron as I am, I may never hit the driver again. I haven't hit my long irons as crisply for a very long time."

Daly hits his one-iron "260 yards to 290, 300 with a bit of roll". "That's about how far I hit my driver," Woosnam said. The pair have played together several times in the past, including all four rounds at the US Masters in 1994, when the Welshman suggested a divorce. "It is not easy to play with John, especially in America where all the crowd is interested in is how far he hits it," Woosnam said.

The Frenchman Jean van de Velde matched Daly's 67 thanks to an eagle at the last which almost netted him Aus$500,000 for an albatross. His three-iron second shot from 205 yards cleared the water by just two feet, but ran up to six inches from the hole.