Chris Wood pleased after battling through the pain barrier
CHRIS Wood's desire to qualify for the United States Open almost cost him the chance to play in his 'home' tournament, the Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor.
A gruelling 36 holes in a day at Walton Heath, where he finished three shots outside the qualifying mark, following four tough rounds in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, could have proved too much for his troublesome lower back.
Wood, pictured, suffered painful spasms on the eve of his trip across the Severn and sent out cries for help. His trainer, masseur and coach convened at his Clifton flat and he was prescribed the strongest possible painkillers so he could sleep.
"At 5.30am this morning he texted us to say he was pulling out, but we talked him into playing," said coach Paul Mitchell, who watched every shot in a creditable one-over-par 72 that keeps him in contention today.
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Wood said: "I was just happy to get round after all the drama. If someone had offered me one-over first thing this morning, I would have snapped their arm off.
"The back was something unexpected as we have been managing the problem very well. Obviously, US Open qualifying was just too much.
"Goodness knows how many pills I took, but I managed to make a reasonable score. I'll be taking a few more before my second round and hope for another steady day."
The windy day challenged low scores, but he dropped shots at the long, difficult par-four fourth and sixth holes, but pulled one back at the fifth and made birdies at the par-five ninth and 11th to stand at one-under.
Although he three-putted 16 and 17 for bogeys, he canned a ten-footer on the last after a superb bunker shot from across the green.
"This is the best I've ever hit a ball over the past few weeks," he said. "I had a disappointing finish today, but six months ago I couldn't complete 18 holes and last year I missed both here and Wentworth because of the same problem.
"The course is unusually dry for this time of year and was a little bouncy, but the greens are the best I've seen since I started playing here."
Somerset's David Dixon, who is now back living in Bridgwater after a spell in Bristol, dropped two shots on the final three holes. Although he won the Tour School in Spain, he has been limited to only six starts this year.
He said: "Playing one week and then having four off makes life difficult, but I have to make the most of the opportunities when they come," he said.
He made three birdies and dropped six shots in a three-over-par 74. A solid round should give him a boost before he plays three tournaments in a row from next week.