Friday, 19 March 2010

Englishman John E Morgan, who took the US PGA Tour by storm in 2003 before a violent epileptic seizure derailed his promising career, rediscovered some hot form with a six under par 64 during the first round of the ECCO Tour Championship.

Morgan, who is having to rely on invitations for tournament starts this year, found Odense Golf Club in Denmark very much to his liking on Thursday with four birdies and an eagle in a bogey-free 64, for a share of second place with Iain Pyman and one stroke behind early pace-setter Johan Wahlqvist of Sweden.

Morgan, of course, has been here before having graduated through the Challenge Tour in 2002 prior to heading to the United States, where he won a card at that year’s US PGA Tour Qualifying School.

Not one to be backwards about coming forwards, the Bristol golfer soon befriended Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk to name but a few, and captivated the American golfing public with some mesmerising performances and his bright blue hairstyle.

Just as he looked to have found his feet in America with three top ten finishes, including a rousing second place finish behind Mark Hensby at the 2004 John Deere Classic, Morgan was struck down when a violent epileptic seizure left him with a ruptured sternum.

To make matters worse, the fit was the beginning of a horrendous series of injuries and misfortunes that have plagued some of his prime golfing years. Now, though, Morgan has returned to the golf course and is looking to fight his way back into the big time.

The 29 year old has missed half of the cuts on his six Challenge Tour starts in 2007, but a share of sixth place in Italy in April showed that, when fit and healthy, he remains a very talented performer.

Wahlqvist, the 26 year old Swede, is another fighting his way up the professional system and having won his place in the field courtesy of some fine results on the ECCO Tour in Denmark, he benefited from some good luck when he chipped in at the first hole and later holed a six iron for an eagle two at the 16th.

Those two shots helped Wahlqvist to a 63 on a perfectly calm morning and into the lead by a stroke from Morgan and Pyman, with Swede Magnus A Carlsson – a winner four weeks ago at the Challenge of Ireland presented by Glasson - Francois Delamontagne of France, Welshman Stuart Manley and Inder Van Weerelt of The Netherlands all well placed after rounds of 65.

Having missed the cut in this event last year, Wahlqvist is hoping the experience gained while playing in the recent Scandinavian Masters on The European Tour will stand him in good stead this week.

“I did not play well but it was really an advantage to see what you can expect on The European Tour, which is the level I want to get to. Next time I won’t be so nervous,” he said.

Pyman has plenty of experience on both The European and Challenge Tours, winning five times on the latter between 1999 and 2002, and the 34 year old finished the first day's play with a flourish, birdieing the last two holes for an inward half of 31 and a round of 64.

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