Woosnam rediscovers his wizardry

After successive wins it is the former world No 1's caddie who is afraid of the cut. Andrew Farrell reports
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The Independent Online
In Singapore last week, Ian Woosnam's caddie, Phil Morbey, better known simply as Wobbly, had a bet with Sam Torrance. The next time Woosie won, something he had not done for 16 months, Wobbly would do a John Daly: shave his head.

His timing could not have been worse. But despite spirited celebrations when Woosnam sealed the Johnnie Walker Classic, the Welshman saved his caddie from Torrance's shears. Having refound his form, the last thing Woosnam wanted was a literally wobbly caddie in Perth, Australia, last week, where temperatures soared over 100 degrees, or this week in Sun City. Quite what retribution Torrance will exact after Woosnam won the Heineken Classic on Sunday remains to be seen.

The last time Woosnam won in successive weeks was in 1990. The following year he became the world No 1 and won the US Masters. Since then victories continued at periodic intervals, until last year, his first without one for 10 years. But each time he expressed doubts that he was truly on his peak form. More often than not a quick tip had set him right, but it would not last. So asked, after his 28th and 29th European wins, when the last time he felt as good about his game, the answer was significant: "Not since 1991."

His other key comment in Perth concerned his back. Woosnam suffers from spondulitis, where two vertebrae are rubbing together. He said: "Even if I start playing badly again, I'm not going to worry. With my back, every day I can play is a bonus."

After withdrawing from the World Cup in November, Woosnam packed in golf for the winter. He went to see a back specialist and was told not to lift anything. Nor exercise. "Sounds great," Woosie said. And to do some swimming, now and again. "Now and again, this is for me.

"I tried to do everything the right way and that didn't work for me," Woosnam explained. "Two winters ago I exercised a lot, sit up, jogging, presses up. The formula for me is relaxation. I had a nice winter. I became the best in the world doing it my way and I thought I had to change to stay the best."

That included his swing, which Seve Ballesteros once described as the "sweetest in Europe". He was in the middle of a swing change when he went to the Heineken Classic two years ago. He missed the cut. "Obviously, it didn't work." The problem was going back to his original style. Doing a programme for the Peak Performance series on ITV helped. He could see the difference when he won the Masters in 1991 and last year. His weight transfer was appalling, leading to a lack of power and control.

Last year, Woosnam played a number of practice rounds with Colin Montgomerie, who is coached by Bill Ferguson. "I was right off the feeling of coaches," Woosnam said, "but I liked the way Bill taught. He simplifies everything. It's just rhythm and keeping the clubface on line. I can't think about lots of different things, I'm a natural. I just pick up a club and swing."

The way he has won has been that of a world top 10 player, not one who had slumped to 57th two weeks ago. In Singapore, he birdied the last, then beat Andrew Coltart in the three-hole play-off. On Sunday, he again birdied the last to beat Paul McGinley and Jean van de Velde by one stroke. Woosnam cannot wait for the Masters in April. Wobbly is just dreading Sam Torrance's scissors.