Wood handles the pressure

  • Mark Orlovac
  • 19 Jul 08, 05:30 PM

A certain Tiger Woods may not be in the Open field this week but at least his namesake - well, namesake-ish, was in the headlines after the second round at Royal Birkdale.

"Wood's super shot has him dreaming," screamed one. "Last-hole chip for birdie makes Wood a Rose by another name," shouted another. And then there was: "Spectacular finish gives Wood edge in amateur race."

On Friday, Chris Wood, the 20-year-old amateur from Bristol, revived the memory of Justin Rose at Birkdale in 1998 by chipping in from 25 yards at the last for a second-round 70.

The score, achieved in horrendous conditions, was only beaten by 12 other players.

It was an impressive round from a player making his Open debut and who only took up golf after a knee injury ended his football career.

He not only made the cut, but he also went into the weekend leading Thomas Sherreard in the race for the prestigious silver medal, which is given to the leading amateur.

Despite all the media attention he has received over the last 24 hours, the former Bristol City academy footballer was calmness personified when I saw him on the practice range before Saturday's third round.

With the wind battering his slender 6ft 5in frame, Wood struck irons for fun - in between laughing and joking with his father, who also doubles up as his caddie.

I managed to catch up with him again on the course, watching him for three holes at the start of an outward nine made devilish by the strong winds.

And for a player taking part in the biggest round of his career so far, Wood betrayed few signs of nerves and he fired his tee shots at the 2nd and 3rd straight down the middle of the fairway.

There were a couple of shaky moments, the most notable one coming at the 2nd where he failed to connect properly with a chip from the rough at the back of the green - moving the ball only 10 feet.

But at the par-three 4th, Wood produced a memorable moment.

His tee shot had found the rough to the left but despite the poor lie, Wood deftly looped the ball up and onto the green, leaving it eight feet away.

The home crowd gave the shot the reception it deserved and on top of the hill halfway down the hole, the chat was buzzing.

"Who's that?" said one of the fans behind me.

"That's Woods," said his mate. "You know, the other one."

After that shot, I left him to plod on in the sunny but hazardous conditions, only to see him again coming up the last.

The crowd, packed into the grandstands around the green, gave him a wonderful ovation as he claimed a par for a 73.

He is now on eight over for the week, just four strokes off the leaders as I write and further up the leaderboard than the stellar names of Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Retief Goosen.

"I didn't feel anymore nerves than on Friday," he told BBC Sport. "It was the same routine again - one shot at a time.

"Being on the 1st tee when your name is announced is daunting but once you are out there you don't think about anything.

"I love playing in front of people and the reception you have when you reach the greens is awesome."

In the race for the silver medal, Wood goes into the final day four clear of amateur rival Sherreard and winning the honour would cap an incredible week.

And if he can build on his performances this weekend, people will not be saying "Chris who?" for much longer.


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