Ian Woosnam made his 17th appearance in the World Cup today – and rarely can he have experienced such a strange start to the $1.4m team contest.
Woosnam narrowly avoided a confrontation with a snake on just his second hole and then saw playing partners Chile forced to withdraw from the event after just nine holes.
Woosnam’s approach to the par-five second at Kiawah Island pitched on the edge of the green but bounced off into a virtually dry water hazard.
That meant he could find his ball and attempt to play on to the green, but only after playing partner Bradley Dredge helpfully pointed out he had just seen a snake a few feet away.
Undeterred, Woosnam attempted to hack out of trouble only for his ball to hit the wooden beams supporting the raised green and bounce further into trouble.
The former world number one then realised he could take a penalty drop on the edge of the green where the ball had last crossed the hazard, and promptly chipped in for an amazing par five.
Woosnam is only playing in the event as a last-minute replacement for flu victim Phillip Price and was on holiday in Barbados when he got the call on Monday asking him to step into the breach.
He caught a flight to Florida on Tuesday but missed his connecting flight to Charleston and instead had to drive for three-and-a-half hours to Kiawah, scene of the 1991 Ryder Cup.
That did his troublesome back few favours but Woosnam’s experience of both the contest and the venue will prove invaluable.
The 45-year-old made his World Cup debut in 1980 in Colombia and won both the individual and team title – with David Llewellyn – in 1987 in Hawaii, beating Sandy Lyle and Sam Torrance in a play-off.
He also won the individual title in 1991 in Rome and has played in all of the major team events at Kiawah Island; competing in the Ryder Cup in 1991, the 1997 World Cup and the 2001 Warburg Cup.
By the time Woosnam chipped in for his par, it had become apparent that Chile’s Felipe Aguilar was in severe difficulties with a hand injury.
Aguilar had tripped up when getting into a mini-van on Tuesday and landed heavily on his left hand.
Having battled through qualifying, the 29-year-old attempted to play in the opening fourballs in support of his team-mate Roy Mackenzie, but was obviously badly hindered when he tried to swing the club.
He did not play the first two holes and after getting the hand strapped on the second green, carved his tee shot on the third into deep rough.
Aguilar did manage to complete the sixth hole with a bogey five, but with Chile six over par by the turn, decided to call it a day.
It failed to knock Wales out of their stride however and after a bogey on the third, birdies at the seventh, eighth, 10th and 11th took them to three under par.
That was just one behind leaders France and Germany, Thomas Levet and Raphael Jacquelin taking advantage of the downwind opening stretch to card four birdies in seven holes, Alex Cejka and Marcel Siem needing just one more hole to join them at four under.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Alastair Forsyth, in the first match out, were one under par after 12 but Ireland’s Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington had dropped back to level par.
The 1997 winners here at Kiawah Island birdied the first two holes but bogeyed the fifth and sixth.
England’s Paul Casey and Justin Rose made a slow start with four pars but then picked up a birdie each on the fifth and sixth to improve to two under.
Pre-tournament favourites Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard were one over after six holes after consecutive bogeys.
Woosnam narrowly missed an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th but still recorded a 68 which could well be leading at the end of the day.
“We were fortunate that when Chile pulled out we were in the second match out and able to go through the first match and that made a big difference,” said Woosnam.
“We didn’t get off to a great start but the chip in on the second helped get us going and it suits me if the wind stays like this.”