Woosnam relishing return to the fairway
becoming a national hero with his captaincy of Europe's victorious
Ryder Cup team, Ian Woosnam is relishing a return to his day job,
The Welshman is planning to play a lot more this year as he resumes
his career following the incredible high of that record-equaling
victory over the United States at The K Club in Ireland last September.
"Absolutely!" he responded when asked if he aims to spend
more time on the fairways.
"I turn 50 in March next year and I'm planning a full European
Tour season before then. I know that when I'm in the groove and
playing regularly I can be competitive.
"During the British Open last summer, I did some practice back
home in Jersey and on the Monday after that I played in a pro-am
where I had eight birdies in 13 holes. So I found something that
week and went off and finished 11th in the next tournament [the
Deutsche Bank Players Championship of Europe].
"The key to it is my short game. I've been switching between
the long-handled putter and the conventional one, but I'm going
to stick with the long one because that gives me more confidence.
I've been practicing hard and I'm looking forward to a busy year,
His schedule includes a visit to Hainan, China, to play in next
week's TCL Classic, where he will tee it up alongside two of his
Ryder Cup team, Paul McGinley and Lee Westwood.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Woosnam who will compete
in the TCL Classic from March 15-18 at Yalong Bay Golf Club in Sanya.
"I'm certainly going to relish playing alongside Paul and Lee.
I played in the event two years ago and really enjoyed it. I remember
Hainan as a truly beautiful island and a very relaxing place to
While understandably eager to focus on the future, the charismatic
Woosnam can reflect on a stellar career that has brought him a Major
title, the 1991 Masters, plus eight Ryder Cup appearances as a player
and a staggering 28 European Tour titles.
And then, of course, there were the incredible scenes at The K Club
as Europe beat the United States 18½-9½.
"When I was appointed captain in January 2005 everyone said,
'Before you know it, it'll all be over,' and here we are, almost
six months on from the tournament. Time has flown by," he said.
"But now that I've had a chance to sit down and watch some
DVDs of it, I'm starting to appreciate what we have achieved and
just how incredibly well the guys played. I couldn't have asked
for any more than they gave me. It was just such a pleasure to be
Not that he was over-confident before the tournament. "I was
braced for a very tough week because I was certain Tom Lehmann would
be a very astute captain and we all felt the Americans would be
up for it after Europe's recent successes in the event.
"Tom had brought the American team over to Dublin for a bonding
exercise the previous month and was obviously leaving no stone unturned.
"My target was to have nine and a half points on the board
by Saturday night - in fact we had 10, which was a nice little bonus.
I think one of the key factors was that we holed the crucial putts
at the right time. We were always very strong on the last three
Woosnam approached his captaincy role by remembering what he had
learned from his predecessors.
"I was involved in eight Ryder Cups as a player plus one as
vice-captain to Sam Torrance. My first captain was Tony Jacklin,
who was truly inspirational and set the benchmark for others to
"When Tony became captain, he said, 'If we're going to compete
with the Americans, everything has to be top notch. We've got to
go over there looking confident, dressed for the occasion and ready
to give it everything. We travel first class, we look first class
and we play first class.' As a captain, he made us feel so confident
"All the captains I played under had their merits and I drew
a little bit from each of them. Being vice-captain under Sam was
especially important because it was crucial to see what went on
behind the scenes.
"Having said that, while I saw an awful lot of the work a captain
had to do, I didn't realise until I got into it that there was so
much more on top of that.
"You have to think of everything - from golf clothing, waterproofs
and shoes, to outfits for formal occasions, to menus and rooming
arrangements, how to fit out the team room, previewing and approving
motivational videos, and a whole host of other things. And that's
in addition to thinking about the actual golf!
"Another crucial aspect is to think about the players' wives
and partners because they're an integral part of the week. Basically,
myself and my staff did all we could to ensure that when the players
turned up, everything was laid on for them and all they had to think
about was playing."
The celebrations that followed Europe's victory went on for weeks.
"I've attended a few dinners and presentations," said
Woosnam, who received an OBE in the New Year's Honours List.
"One particular memory is a businessman called Rossa McDermott
putting on a 'Welcome back to Ireland lunch' for my first return
there after the Ryder Cup and that was great fun. Then there was
the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show and an awards ceremony
in Ireland where we received the Best Team prize."
After the dinners, awards ceremonies and TV appearances, Woosnam
is ready to move on. "I've spent some time in Barbados and
practised hard there and now I'm looking forward to playing again
regularly in 2007," he says.
"The Ryder Cup is in the past - this year is all about tournament
March 11, 2007