Wood eyes first title

Chris Wood, so close in July to becoming the youngest winner of The Open since 1893, is eyeing a first European Tour title again.

England’s Chris Wood, so close in July to becoming the youngest winner of The Open since 1893, is in pursuit of his first European Tour title again.
The 21-year-old from Bristol opened the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Cologne with a six under par 66 to be only one behind Ryder Cup Dane Soren Hansen, winner on the same Gut Larchenhof course two years ago.
They were the stars of a day which also saw Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson, the two highest ranked players in the 78-man field, both return rounds of 70 and 52-year-old tournament host Bernhard Langer come back from two early double bogeys to be one under.
Wood turned professional after finishing fifth at last year’s Open – but for that he would almost certainly have been at the Walker Cup in America this week – and is now up to 63rd in the world.
That is thanks mostly to his performance at Turnberry two months ago when, like Westwood, a closing bogey denied him a place in the
play-off between Stewart Cink and Tom Watson.
“I never hit a bad shot on the last day,” he said. “The 18th is obviously going to stand out, but I hit a nine-iron 230 yards. You can’t legislate for that.
“In the air it was right on the flag, but unfortunately I had a flyer and it went over the green. It was just not meant to be, but the last four holes I played in one under par.”
Wood, who will make his Masters debut next April as a result of his third place finish, turned in two under today, had a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th and then two-putted the long 15th for another.
Hansen, who also began with a 65 when he won, said: “It seemed silly easy.
“I played tremendously when I won here and I’ve always liked this place. I just kept giving myself chances.”
The 35-year-old, starting his campaign to be part of Colin Montgomerie’s side next year a week later than most, sank a 12-footer for eagle at the 509-yard 13th and made five birdies.
The elite tournament has the slogan “Winners Only”, but Wood qualifies off his world ranking.
There are, in fact, nine players who have yet to taste European Tour success and another of them, Scotland’s David Drysdale, is in joint third place following a 67.
Alongside him are England’s Ross Fisher, South African James Kingston, who came back superbly from a triple bogey seven at the 426-yard second, and Australian Scott Strange.
Langer was playing with Montgomerie the day after Europe’s captain said he did not rule out giving the leading money-winner on the US seniors tour a wild card next September.
At four over after four Langer was down the rear of the field, but he played the remaining holes in five under and finished one ahead of Montgomerie.
On his last visit to the course Westwood started with a 61 and led Hansen by four, but then slipped back to sixth. Now he is the one with some catching up to do.
The Worksop golfer then admitted after playing he was “a little bit surprised” to be told he was the Tour’s Golfer of the Month for August given that USPGA winner YE Yang was eligible.
Collated first round scores in the European Tour Mercedes-Benz Championship, Gut Larchenhof GC, Cologne, Germany
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):

65 Soren Hansen (Den)
66 Chris Wood
67 David Drysdale, Ross Fisher, James Kingston (Rsa), Scott Strange (Aus)
68 Francesco Molinari (Ita), Paul Lawrie, Simon Dyson
69 Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Christian Nilsson (Swe), Nick Dougherty, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Graeme Storm, Daniel Vancsik (Arg), Anthony Wall, Stephen Dodd, Richard Finch, Markus Brier (Aut)
70 Graeme McDowell, Anders Hansen (Den), Marcel Siem (Ger), Darren Clarke, Alex Cejka (Ger), Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Pablo Larrazabal (Spa), Peter Hanson (Swe), Robert Rock, Trevor Immelman (Rsa), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa), Niclas Fasth (Swe), Henrik Stenson (Swe), Lee Westwood, Thomas Levet (Fra)
71 Bernhard Langer (Ger), Christian Cevaer (Fra), Rodney Pampling (Aus), David Howell, Scott Drummond, Peter Hedblom (Swe), Anthony Kang (USA), Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg), Alexander Noren (Swe), Prayad Marksaeng (Tha)
72 Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind), Felipe Aguilar (Chi), Damien McGrane, Colin Montgomerie, Gregory Bourdy (Fra), Danny Willett, Kenneth Ferrie, Paul McGinley, Alvaro Quiros (Spa)
73 Hennie Otto (Rsa), Oskar Henningsson (Swe), Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spa)
74 Jose-Maria Olazabal (Spa), Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Alastair Forsyth, Jamie Donaldson, Tano Goya (Arg), John Bickerton, Florian Fritsch (Ger)
75 Shane Lowry, Mark Brown (Nzl), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha)
76 Steve Webster, Jeppe Huldahl (Den), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Gareth Maybin, Michael Hoey
77 Michael Campbell (Nzl), Fabrizio Zanotti (Par), Gregory Havret (Fra)
78 Mikael Lundberg (Swe), Johan Edfors (Swe)
79 Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia (Ind)