Bond utilises license to thrill

8/30/2013 6:15:00 PM
Liam Bond   (Getty Images)
Liam Bond (Getty Images)

Home favourite Liam Bond took full advantage of his late call-up by taking the Handa Wales Open lead at The Celtic Manor Resort.

The Welshman was one of the few under par players from round one to shoot better than 71 again on an untypically firm course.

Bond, who only found out he was in the lucrative event via a phonecall on Wednesday, went one better than yesterday’s two under 69 as birdies on five, eight, 11, 14 and 15 overshadowed bogeys at the seventh and 18th.

He subsequently ended a stroke ahead of overnight leader Espen Kofstad, who – despite beginning his round with a gain at 11 – followed up his 64 with a disappointing 74.

Forty-three-year-old Bond, the world number 1,528, is the club professional at nearby St Pierre. He only won his card on The European Tour in his 16th visit to the qualifying school in 2010 but was unable to retain it after finishing 191st on the Order of Merit in 2011.

However, he has now put himself in position to complete a remarkable story as he leads heading into what promises to be an enthralling weekend.

“I'm playing way better than when I had my card in 2011,” said Bond. “If I was on tour this year I would be loving it but I put myself under a lot of pressure when I was on the tour.

“I feel my game is still pretty good and I only found out I was playing on Wednesday afternoon so I didn't have any time to over-prepare like I have done in the past. The pressure is off because I'm not trying to keep my card.

“I only live 10 minutes down the road so it's nice to be so close to home. I'll be at home with my slippers on this afternoon and a nice cup of tea.”

A day of struggle for many of those who prospered during the opening act means things are wide open.

Kofstad, playing with next year’s European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, was unable to repeat yesterday’s heroics.

Having produced a perfect start, he bogeyed six times to ultimately undermine his three birdies and finish alongside South Africa's Tjaart van der Walt on four under

A cluster of players were a shot further back on three under, with McGinley’s name being the most notable in an event that heralds the start of qualification for next year’s contest with America.

“It (the course and wind) was a challenge, there’s no doubt about it,” he admitted. “You had to be patient; it was tough and it’s understandable that the scoring is quite moderate.

“I have been playing well for a few months and have not turned it into a result. I could do with a good result.

“I played lovely controlled golf and hopefully the wind blows at the weekend. It’s very bunched as most leaderboards are now on The European Tour. You have got to play well.”

Alongside McGinley was England’s Graeme Storm, who produced to joint-best round of the day to fly into contention.

“My hitting has not been great but the putter is hot – it has not felt like that in a long time but over the last few weeks has been great – and the chipping is feeling good,” he said. “I just need to sharpen up the long game.”