July 28, 2006

Woosnam rolls back the years, rolls in the putts

By Norman Dabell

GUT KADEN, Germany (Reuters) - Europe's Ryder Cup captain
Ian Woosnam showed the sort of form that once made him world
number one when he stormed into an early two-shot lead in the
European Players' Championship on Friday.

The 48-year-old Briton, winner of the 1991 U.S. Masters,
has found a new lease of life thanks to a dramatic cure for his
back problem that is costing him 200 pounds ($372) a week for
injections and with a fundamental change to his putting style.

Woosnam turned back the clock to add another six birdies to
the nine he claimed on Thursday as he carded a second-round
six-under-par 66 to surge to 13-under-par 131.

That placed him two shots ahead of fellow Briton Luke
Donald who birdied the last two holes for a 66, and Swedish
surprise package Christian Nilsson.

Woosnam's performance was reminiscent of his displays in
the late 1980s and early 1990s when he ruled Europe. It also
gave notice for the Ryder Cup against the U.S. at the K Club in
September that the captain has not lost the art of leading on
the course.

His rediscovered energy has much to do with a revolutionary
drug he injects once a week. The drug has helped his stricken
friend and former tour winner Michael King, who has been
crippled by arthritis.

Woosnam explained: "I spoke to Michael King about six weeks
ago...after taking these injections he's like a new man.

"He couldn't walk 200 yards and now he's playing on the
seniors tour.

"So I decided to take them four weeks ago. They are
expensive, 200 pounds-a-week and you inject yourself. They've
made a big difference.

"It's taken a lot of stiffness out of my back and it's
given me the freedom to swing."

Woosnam noted that, because of his injections, he had felt
none of the stiffness he could have expected after taking a
two-and-a-half-hour break for a thunderstorm in the first

After he shot a 65 on Thursday Woosnam was delighted to
also see his putting fortunes change and on Friday he had
another successful day with the putter.

"I'm swinging naturally again and I've putted the best I
have for 10 years in the last two days," Woosnam said.

"My putting has been so bad. But this week I've moved the
ball back in my stance and tried keeping my feet square. It
doesn't look very pretty; it doesn't feel very pretty but it's
put me on the right line."

Donald, looking to consolidate his position in the European
table with 600,000 Ryder Cup points on offer, won a private
battle with his friend and tournament favorite Sergio Garcia,
edging two shots above the Spaniard on the leaderboard.