A return to the short putter reaped rich rewards for Ian Woosnam as the Welshman surged into contention on the opening day of the Berenberg Masters on the European Senior Tour.
The former Masters Tournament Champion has been struggling with his health in recent weeks and had even considered withdrawing from this week’s €400,000, but his determination to compete paid dividends in sensational style as he compiled a round of 67 at Golf- und Land-Club Köln.
With the thermometer touching 38 degrees in Cologne, Germany, Woosnam’s putter duly caught fire, rattling in a brace of birdie putts on the front nine and adding four more after the turn to finish the day on five under par, two shots adrift of the surprise leader Greg Turner of New Zealand.
It marked a spectacular return to form for Woosnam, who missed the cut at last week’s Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.
A torrid time on the greens at Royal Birkdale prompted a re-think for Woosnam, and his switch to the short stick has so far proved a masterstroke.
Woosnam, who won the Berenberg Masters the last time it was played at Golf- und Land-Club Köln in 2011, said: “I played very steady out there today, didn’t do much wrong at all and holed a lot of putts. I decided to go back to the short stick with a claw grip, and it definitely did the job for me today.
“I’ve been struggling with the long putter and putted much better with the short one when I was away recently, so I thought I’d give it a go this week and I’m very glad I did. I hit a lot of putts on line today which stopped up a little bit short, so if I can get a bit more confidence and start hitting the putts a little firmer, hopefully a few more will drop in.
“I can’t remember the last time I used the short putter in competition, it was so long ago. But I do remember vowing never to use it again because I putted so poorly! But I’m very glad I changed my mind and switched to the claw grip, because it seems to suit me better now and hopefully that continues.
“The course here is magnificent, it’s quite tight but the fairways have been watered, so even if you hit it a little off line it’s not going to run too far into trouble. They certainly needed to water the fairways, because with it being so hot they would’ve been rock hard. It was tough at times in the heat today, but I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible and drink plenty of water.
“It’s not ideal conditions for me because I’ve been struggling with a headache which I can’t seem to get rid of for weeks now, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to play this week. But I had a bit of physio this morning which made me feel a bit better, and now I feel a lot better after shooting a 67.”
Woosnam was later joined in a share of second place by England’s Barry Lane and Germany’s Bernhard Langer, whose round of 67 went some way towards erasing the painful memories of his late collapse at last week’s Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.