July 28, 2006

Woosnam rolls back years, rolls in putts

By Norman Dabell

GUT KADEN, Germany (Reuters) - Briton Ian Woosnam showed
the sort of form that once made him world number one as he
finished just a stroke behind halfway leader Swede Robert
Karlsson in the European Players' Championship on Friday.

Europe's Ryder Cup captain, winner of the 1991 U.S.
Masters, has found a new lease of life through a dramatic cure
for perennial back problems and with a fundamental putting

The 48-year-old Welshman added six birdies to the nine he
claimed on Thursday as he carded a six-under-par 66 to surge to
13-under-par 131. He shares second place with the first round
leader Lee Westwood and another Briton Gary Orr.

World number five Retief Goosen, making a late run for his
third European order of merit, and his South African compatriot
Charl Schwartzel, share fifth place, two strokes off the pace.

Leader Karlsson is one of several players at Gut Kaden
trying to seal a place in Woosnam's team with a 600,000 points
win. He set up the chance of a second success of the year after
victory in the Wales Open, with a seven-birdie 66.

Woosnam's performance, reminiscent of his displays in the
late '80s and early '90s when he ruled Europe, gave notice to
his potential team for the match against 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 uses once a week and which has helped his stricken
friend and former tour winner Michael King, who has been
crippled by arthritis.


"I spoke to Michael King about six weeks ago," said
Woosnam. "After taking these injections he's like a new man. He
couldn't walk 200 yards and now he's playing on the senior's

"So I decided to take them four weeks ago. They are
expensive, 200 pounds ($372) 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, seeking to be the European Tour's oldest winner,
said that because of the injections he felt none of the
stiffness he could have expected after taking a 2-1/2 hour
break for a thunderstorm in the first round.

After shooting 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 ten 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 to the
target. It doesn't look very pretty, it doesn't feel very
pretty but it's put me on the right line."

He will remain Europe's skipper at the K Club in September
wherever his resurgence takes him. "Even if I happen to win the
next three or four tournaments in a row, I will still be the
captain," Woosnam said.

Swede Karlsson was overlooked for a Ryder Cup place in 1999
despite finishing only one spot out of the automatic top 10. He
now lies 15th in the Cup table, five places from qualifying.

"If I win one more then I have a chance," said Karlsson. "I
just need to do my thing and see what happens.

"There are another five or six tournaments, including a
couple of big ones in America. It's guesswork.

"I cannot protect anything because I'm outside the top ten,
but that way I can't get too far ahead of myself."