Ian Woosnam placed his duty to Wales ahead of a relaxing Caribbean holiday, partnering Bradley Dredge into second place behind leaders Germany after the first round fourballs in the World Golf Championships – World Cup at the Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
Woosnam, at 45 one of the oldest competitors in the field, received an SOS call at his holiday home in Barbados after flu-stricken Phillip Price withdrew from the $4,000,000 team event, which saw three European teams occupy the first three places after the first round.
Woosnam and Dredge carded a four under par 68 in testing blustery conditions, only to be overtaken late in the day by the German partnership of Alex Cejka and Marcel Siem, who forged ahead with a round of 67 in 30 mph winds over the 1991 Ryder Cup course.
It is Woosnam's 17th appearance in the WGC - World Cup, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and an event in which he has experienced sweet success in 1987 alongside David Llewellyn.
However, just getting to Kiawah Island proved to be a troublesome experience. What should have been a simple journey to South Carolina turned into a 12-hour marathon when he missed his connecting flight in Miami, and after another flight to Jacksonville he drove for three and a half hours to reach Kiawah Island.
More drama followed with Wales’s partners, Chile, having to withdraw when a hand injury sustained by Felipe Aguilar earlier in the week proved too painful to continue and the problem was later diagnosed as a break.
Left to their own devices, Wales were allowed to play through by the group ahead on the 12th hole and Woosnam, who made his WGC - World Cup debut in 1980 in Colombia and won both the individual and team title in 1987, carded five birdies to spearhead their recovery from one over after three holes.
Asked what he would have been doing now if he had stayed in Barbados, Woosnam said: "Sitting down on the beach or in a bar drinking a nice rum and coke, or going for a siesta. But it didn't take much persuading to come here. It was nice to come and represent your country again."
Dredge, who partnered Woosnam to a share of 12th place last year in Mexico, admitted: I think it’s a good combination. Woosie is a very attacking player and I’m more conservative. However it’s obviously going to be difficult in foursomes tomorrow and in these conditions we might have to revise our game plan a bit. You have to use your head a bit more.”
Meanwhile Germany were inspired by three successive birdies from the sixth and even a bogey at the 17th could not deprive them of the outright lead, especially with Siem making a solid par saving putt from ten feet at the last.
As the conditions became more brutal, it became apparent that the leading first round scores in the fourball better ball format would not approach the previous three years – 57 in 2000, 62 in 2001 and 59 last year.
Cejka, who won over $1,000,000 on the US PGA Tour in 2003, formed a strong partnership with WGC-World Cup rookie Siem and said: “It was great to have that score and see our name up on the leaderboard. The course has changed a lot since 1997 when I played here and with a wind over 40 or 40 miles an hour it was much tougher. We are both very pleased to lead the tournament after round one.”
France, represented by Raphaël Jacquelin and Thomas Levet, shot a three under par 69 to lie in third place while none of the remaining 21 teams managed to break 70. In fact, only seven broke par with Argentina, Paraguay and South Africa sharing fourth place on 70 and Mexico, Scotland, South Korea and the United States on 71.
It was a disappointing day for Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, who captured the title under its old stroke play format back in 1997 when Cejka was runner-up in the individual competition. Two under after two, the Irish pair finishing two over on 74 and Harrington admitted: “It was tough. We struggled in the conditions and putting was very difficult. However we are not too far back.”
England’s Paul Casey and Justin Rose, one of the favourites to land the title, were sailing along happily on three under par with six to play but came to grief at the 13th, where both players made double bogey sixes. Further dropped shots at the 15th and 17th compounded the problem and they closed with a 75.
“It was a disastrous finish for us” said Rose. “We didn’t dove-tail well enough today and that seemed to be the problem. Basically, if someone was out of the hole the other was not backing up. Still, it’s very bunched and foursomes is where it’s at. That will find out the strong teams.”