Chris Wood slips out of title contention on the back nine at Wales Open
CHRIS Wood, Bristol's leading golfer, will have to wait a little longer to register his first win on the European Tour after a topsy-turvy weekend in Wales.
But it could have been so different yesterday, on a day where scoring was tough and conditions favoured the earlier starters.
After a magnificent second-round fightback on Friday, when a four-under-par 67, with five birdies in his final ten holes, propelled him to within three shots of the lead in the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor, he slipped back to 21st after a 74 on Saturday.
But the Long Ashton life member is certainly not a player to give up. And he leapt into contention again on a wet and windy morning yesterday after an outward nine of 33, with three birdies and no dropped shots. He had sprinted to within three shots of the lead while the front-runners were faltering in worsening weather.
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Had he taken three reasonable successive birdie chances from the ninth, who knows what would have happened? "I hit a lot of good putts, but they just touched the edge of the hole," he said.
But his hopes went when he found water at the par-three, 189-yard 13th to make a double bogey. "I hit a 9-iron and the ball ballooned into the wind and was about seven yards short," he said. He dropped a further shot at the par-four, 500-yard 16th for the third time in four days and also bogeyed the last for 71 and a level par total of 284.
When you consider he almost withdrew on Thursday because of a recurrence of a back problem and was feasting on painkilling tablets, to share 14th place, bank another £20,000 and move two places up to 50th place in the Race to Dubai rankings can be considered a satisfactory return.
"I can't get my head round how much my back has improved since Wednesday night, thanks to my support team," he said. "I am striking the ball really well and have been doing so over the past few weeks. The scores are coming and my game is not far away from where I want it to be.
"I needed a really low round to have a chance of winning and set my target at five-under when I made the first three early birdies. A couple of things didn't go my way, so I am slightly disappointed, but can't complain when you consider I almost pulled out on Thursday"
His coach Paul Mitchell feels that elusive first win after three second places, the last in Sicily in April, is not far away. He said: "He is hitting the ball great and his play tee-to-green is excellent, but he is just not sinking enough putts."
This week he travels to Sweden and will be joined in Stockholm by Somerset's David Dixon, who missed the cut in Wales after two rounds of 74.