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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 07:49 GMT
Welsh wizard earns ultimate honour
By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport

Ian Woosnam

Age: 47
Born: Oswestry, Shropshire
Family: Married to Glendryth (1983). Children - Daniel (1985), Rebecca (1988), Amy (1991)
Interests: Snooker, fishing, water-skiing, sport

If ever someone could qualify as an honorary Irishman it is Ian Woosnam.

The jovial Welshman is well known for his love of the craic and an evening's carousing in the bar.

But Woosnam's appointment as Europe's 2006 Ryder Cup captain at the K Club was not made to boost sales of the dark stuff.

The rise of the diminutive but powerful farmer's son from Shropshire to 1991 Masters champion proves there is more to "Woosie" than just a good line in tap-room banter.

The former world number one's happy-go-lucky nature belies a fiercely determined and focused competitor.

And in his eight Ryder Cup appearances, plus a stint as Sam Torrance's vice-captain for the victorious 2002 European side, he has shown himself to be the ultimate team man.

Woosnam made his debut in 1983 and was at the forefront of Europe's revival in the competition from 1985 until his final playing appearance in 1997.

He savoured the sweet tang of victory in four different events and chewed on the gristle of defeat four times.

And his appointment to the management team for The Belfry gave him an insight into the myriad roles and stresses facing the captain.

Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance
Ryder Cup caps: 8 (1983-1997)
Match wins: 4 (1985, 1987, 1995, 1997)
Record: Played 31, won 14, lost 12, halved 5
Woosnam's golfing tale begin in 1965 when, as a seven-year-old, he accompanied his father to the local Llanymynech golf course, with 15 holes in Wales and three in England.

Hooked, he began playing regularly and rigged up a practice facility in a disused cow shed on the family dairy farm in St Martins on the English-Welsh border.

Woosnam's daily routine of lifting hay bales contributed to his prodigious length off the tee despite a 5ft 4in frame.

The pocket battleship soon stood out and he progressed to the county circuit where he regularly played with and against a young English-born Scot called Sandy Lyle.

Woosnam turned pro in 1976 but needed three attempts at Qualifying School before he gained his European Tour card.

Paul Way (left), Sam Torrance (centre), Ian Woosnam (right)
Woosnam (right) celebrates winning the 1985 Ryder Cup with Paul Way (left) and Sam Torrance

But while Lyle clinched the Order of Merit in his second and third seasons, Woosnam struggled and spent the early years on Tour traversing the continent in a camper van, living on a diet of baked beans to save money.

He eventually won his first Tour title, the Swiss Open, in 1982.

This sparked a dramatic leap from 104th on the Order of Merit after the 1981 season to 10 straight years in Europe's top 10, winning in 1987 and again in 1990.

After edging quietly up the world rankings, he became world number one on the Monday of Masters week in 1991 and six days later clinched the title at Augusta.

Woosnam stayed on top of the world for 51 weeks, and while the Masters remains his only major title so far, he has won 29 European Tour events.

After a slump in form and a battle with the yips at the end of the 1990s, Woosnam fought back with the help of Yorkshire golf coach Pete Cowen.

Ian Woosnam wins the Masters in 1991
Masters: 1st (1991)
US Open: Tied 2nd (1989)
Open: Tied 3rd (1986, 2001)
USPGA: 6th (1989)

Going into the final round of the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham, Woosnam was in a four-way share of the lead.

But his world fell apart on the second tee when his caddie discovered they were carrying 15 clubs - one more than is allowed.

He was penalised two-strokes, effectively ending his challenge, though he hung on to claim third, four shots back.

Two months later, Woosnam's matchplay tenacity shone through again when he became the first player to win the World Match Play title in three decades (1987, 1990, 2001) - and, at 43, the oldest winner - when he beat Padraig Harrington in the final at Wentworth.

His appointment to help close friend Torrance three years ago was testament to the regard in which Woosnam is held.

And his enduring popularity on Tour and with the public has now yielded one of golf's ultimate prizes.

South African legend Gary Player wrote in the foreword for Woosnam's 2002 autobiography: "They say dynamite comes in small packages;

"Well, Woosie has been dynamite on golf courses around the world for the past two decades - and the game of golf will always be grateful."

Interview: 2006 Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam

Woosnam gets Torrance vote
20 Sep 04 |  Golf

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