Wood’s dream debut
Chris Wood enjoyed a stunning Open debut in 2008. He and his family relive his Birkdale experience with Golf365.
When 20-year-old English amateur Chris Wood arrived in Southport for local qualifying for the 2008 Open Championship he hoped it would go better than two years previously, when he had finished one shot short of a debut at Hoylake.
It did go better – a lot better. It became a golfing fairytale enjoyed by Chris himself, his coach and his family and friends from his local golf club, Long Ashton in Bristol.
Matt Cooper met up with them and heard the story of Chris’ Open in their own words.
LOCAL QUALIFYING AT HILLSIDE:
Richard Wood, Chris’ dad and caddie: “Hillside is right next to Birkdale so we could see the stands going up around the greens. On the night between rounds we had a look around. It was like a fairytale.”
Chris had an early tee time on the second day and posted a final total of -3 which left him in third place.
Chris Wood: “We had to wait, and wait, and wait for the rest of the field to finish. It was so horrible we went shopping in Southport.”
Richard Wood, Chris’ dad and caddie: “We both hate shopping. We just walked round pretending to looking at things.”
Chris Wood: “After the last group came in people were saying “You’re in, you’re in” but I wouldn’t believe it until the R&A told me. They took us into a little room, gave us a briefing and a player pack. I did nothing but read it all the way home – when to register, when to play, what not to do, that sort of thing.”
Richard Wood, Chris’ dad and caddie: “Qualifying was one of my favourite memories. We had a little hug after we knew he’d made it. We’re not really like that, but it meant that much.”
OPEN WEEK: THE PRACTICE DAYS
Sara Wood, Chris’ mum: “At the start of the week, when we were in the family area, we were all nudging each other and saying “There’s Padraig Harrington!” or “There’s Phil Mickelson!” but then we got over it. We realised that they are just other people in the same golf competition.”
Chris Wood: “I felt really settled. I loved playing in that environment and I saw Gordon Dobson from Long Ashton in the stands. He’s my number one fan.”
Paul Mitchell, Chris’ coach: “We avoided a practice round with a star player. We went out early on our own. We were just dropping the ball, practising difficult positions and discussing a strategy for playing the course.”
Chris Wood: “I went to Birkdale when Justin Rose did well. I only ten and remembering it was an inspiration. I thought why not me? It was just a case of overcoming my nerves.”
THURSDAY: PLAYING WITH PRAYAD MARKSAENG & SCOTT MCCARRON
Richard Wood, Chris’ dad and caddie: “I don’t know how he swung the club on the first tee. I was so nervous. Only bad language explains how I felt. He hit a great shot down the middle and then, as we walked down the fairway, he said … well, let’s just say he needed bad language to explain how he had felt as well!”
Sara Wood, Chris’ mum: “Paul Mitchell and me were running along every hole to see where his ball landed. As soon as we knew it was safe we’d run to the green and shout encouragement as he arrived. Then we ran on to the next hole.”
John Palmer, Chris’ grandfather: “I can’t walk the course these days so I had to stay at home and watch it on TV. I had the red button on because it was showing every shot on 16, 17 and 18. I was so proud when he came on.”
Chris Wood: “It could have been so much better. If I hadn’t missed a little putt on the last, I would have been fairly satisfied with 74. I set my standards very high.”
A first round 75 left Chris tied for 52nd.
John Lochrie, current captain of Long Ashton GC: “I’ve been at the club 25 years and yet I’d only seen him hit a few shots. But I went to see him on the range first thing and I just thought, “My God, he’s good. He’s really good.””
Gill King, Chris’ aunt: “When he holed his chip shot on the 18th there were about 50 or 60 of us all together behind him in the stands. We were all hugging. There were a few tears.”
Victoria Rose, Managing Secretary at Long Ashton GC: “We were on the edge of our seats. It was an absolutely fantastic finish (to his round). We were elated by it. Just beforehand everyone was quiet. Then as soon as they realised the ball was going in the hole, people were on their feet, screaming and shouting.”
A one-under par 70 lifted Chris into a tie for 22nd.
SATURDAY: PLAYING WITH JAY WILLIAMSON
Chris Wood: “Paul (Chris’ coach) and I talked it over last night. We honestly felt that I could even win it.”
John Evans, Long Ashton member: “At one point it really chucked it down for two holes. We had to take cover it was so bad. But when we caught up with him we found out that he’d somehow parred the two holes we’d missed. I don’t know how he did it – the conditions were awful. I was so proud.”
Text message from Abigail, Chris’ sister who was travelling in Prague: “Are you still at that golf thingy?”
A round of 73 is enough for a tie for 9th going into the final round.
SUNDAY: PLAYING WITH IAN POULTER
Richard Wood, Chris’ dad and caddie: “I thought it was bad on the first day but it was even worse on Sunday. We had to walk through a massive crowd from the putting green to the first tee. The noise was incredible and the first tee was like an amphitheatre. I don’t know how he hit that drive. He found the middle of the fairway again though.”
Banner written by juniors from Long Ashton and held aloft by Chris’ mum and aunt on the first tee: “Go Woody Go!”
Chris Wood: “The first tee was the most nervous I’ve ever been.”
Sara Wood, Chris’ mum: “Ian Poulter and Chris both had longish putts for birdie on the front nine. Poulter holed his and then, as he walked past Chris, he said under his breath, “Get it in, mate” and he did!”
Chris Wood: “Once you are out on the course you are in your own little world. Except for hearing my mum and aunt shouting for me, of course – I could hear that all right.”
Terry McDerra, Long Ashton member: “It was the best day of my golfing life but when he was in third place my nerves were just terrible. Every time he took the club back I just whispered, “Please let it be good, just please let it be good.””
Chris Wood: “I had a putt on the tenth to go one shot behind the leader and I rammed it eight feet past. I holed the one coming back but then had three bogeys. That was when I knew I couldn’t win.”
John Lochrie, current captain Long Ashton GC: “The atmosphere in the bar at the club was electric. It was heaving and we had the BBC, ITV and the local papers talking to everyone.”
Richard Wood, Chris’ dad and caddie: “As we walked up the final hole, looking at the stands, I told myself to take it all in and never forget it. But the funny thing is that I can’t remember much – there was too much to do and take in.”
Chris Wood: “My happiest moment was
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