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Saturday, 22 May 2010
Chris Wood  (Getty Images)
Chris Wood (Getty Images)

Chris Wood, the 22 year old from Bristol who had a shot to win The Open Championship last July, takes a two stroke lead into the final day of his first BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club.

But late on Friday he never would have guessed the identity of the player with whom he will play the closing 18 holes. Swede Robert Karlsson was in Monaco.

Wood's four under par 67 was a superb effort, but it came after Karlsson - so convinced he had missed the halfway cut that he took a mid-afternoon flight from London to Nice - had returned and produced a simply stunning course record 62, the low round of the week by three.

Now The Ryder Cup ace could become the first man ever to win a European Tour event having made the cut with nothing to spare.

That is something Rory McIlroy did in America earlier this month, so he knows it is possible.

After 54 holes Wood is on the eight under par mark of 205, with Karlsson up from 63rd to joint second with another 22 year old Englishman making his debut in the event, first round leader Danny Willett.

Since 1972 only Scott Drummond and Arnold Palmer have won on debut at The European Tour's flagship event.

Luke Donald's 72 dropped him from halfway pacesetter to fourth, while defending champion Paul Casey and Padraig Harrington are part of a five-way tie for fifth, but now five shots adrift.

"I couldn't quite believe it," said Wood when asked about Karlsson's round.

"I saw it on the big scoreboard. I kept looking at the card and it was just birdie birdie birdie. Pretty awesome.

"I never felt like I hit the ball my best, but I scored really well. It will be a new experience leading (with a round to go), but there's no better position to be in."

Karlsson was just "a par five" from his front door when word reached him that things had changed and that the cut looked like being three over par, the figure he was on after finishing his second round lunchtime Friday with a double bogey seven.

Not even saying "Hi" to his wife down the road, he asked the taxi driver to take him back to the airport, caught a flight to Paris - there was nothing direct to London - and after two hours' sleep paid for a private jet leaving at 6am.

Teeing off at 8.55am, the 2008 European Number One birdied five of the first seven holes to turn in 30 and by picking up further shots at the 12th, 14th and 16th even had a chance of The European Tour's first 59. This, of course, on a West Course which has been significantly toughened up.

On the 601 yard 17th, however, he almost hooked out of bounds and had to make a ten-footer for his par five and at the 539 yard last, the most talked-about hole of them all, he laid up before pitching to 12 feet and making that for birdie.

After his Championship as well as course record score Karlsson, who at the time had leapt into a tie for the lead with Donald, commented: "I said to my caddie out there that we've got an invitation to this party, so let's party.

"Søren Hansen said at breakfast 'This trip has 63 written all over it' and I said 'Could be 83, but we'll see'.

"It feels like you definitely get a second chance. You just go out to enjoy it, but don't touch my putter - you could burn your hands."

Asked where he ranked the round Karlsson just smiled and replied: "Probably the most unexpected."

His chances of the €750,000 first prize were boosted further when Donald bogeyed the first two holes and struggled to the turn in 37, but Wood did not buckle.

Fifth and third in the last two Open Championships, he had a hat-trick of birdies from the second for an outward 32 and went three clear with more birdies on the 11th and 12th.

Wood, last season's Rookie of the Year, did then bogey the 13th and 15th, but he found the target from 25 feet at the 16th and a stunning bunker shot on the last enabled him to finish with a par five on the controversial 18th.

He and Karlsson both stand six foot five inches, but Wood's mop of blond hair just gives him the edge.

"The girls love it," he joked. "That's what is going to make me keep it, I think."

 

 

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