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Woosnam chooses physiotherapist for caddie

Having fired a caddie who had problems counting and waking up on time, Ian Woosnam has opted for one with no experience at all.

The Welshman's new caddie is a close friend, a physiotherapist named Nick Hooper who has helped Woosnam with his physical problems the last three years.

They are linking up at Celtic Manor for this week's Wales Open, an event where Woosnam is the favourite and where he blew a winning chance in the final round last year.

The 1991 Masters champion finally parted company over the weekend with Miles Byrne, who sprang to prominence at last month's British Open at Royal Lytham when he discovered on the second tee of the final round that Woosnam had an extra club in his bag.

The infraction cost Woosnam a two-stroke penalty and possibly a chance to win one of golf's four majors. He finished tied for third instead of second outright and also lost valuable Ryder Cup points.

Woosnam gaves Byrne a scolding at the British Open. But when the caddie overslept last Sunday morning with the final round of the Scandinavian Masters looming, Woosnam had had enough.

Woosnam fired Byrne on the spot.

Woosnam said Wednesday he had phone calls from several experienced caddies offering to take on the job but had opted for Hooper ``to kill two birds with one stone.''

``I've had a recurrence of back trouble and if I want to keep playing to the standard I am I need to take on a physio full time and this is doing the trick for me,'' he said.

Woosnam said Hooper, a 39-year-old friend who lives near his Channel Island residence on Jersey, is a nine-handicap player.

``He is a keen golfer, a good lad, big, strong, fit. He loves his golf and is looking forward to it.''

Woosnam appealed to the media to leave Hooper along while he is learning his trade, ``getting into the routine of filling in the cards, getting used to the yardages and everything.''

Besides his Welsh connections, which makes this event very attractive to Woosnam, he hopes it will boost him nearer a top-10 position in the Ryder Cup table.

Woosnam, who has played in eight Ryder Cups, is 16th in the standings. The top 10 qualify automatically.

``I need to win a tournament. This one would put me very close, I think,'' he said, adding that he will play next week's U.S. PGA Championship and then the BWM in International Open in Munich at the end of the month. That is the last event that counts toward Ryder selection.

Woosnam also has the possibility of qualifying for the NEC Championship in Akron, Ohio, the week after the U.S. PGA if he does well enough there to get into the top 12 on the Ryder Cup list.

And if he needs to, he may still slot in the Scottish PGA at Gleneagles the week before the German event.

``I'm excited. My golf has improved a lot over the past year. I would like to play another Ryder Cup,'' he said.

If he fails, he still has the role of assistant captain to Sam Torrance and did not rule out the possibility of doing that job and playing on the team as well.


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