Tunnel vision pays dividends with Ryder Cup spot now in Wood’s reach
Ignorance is bliss, particularly when you look at the leaderboard for the first time on the 18th green and discover that, despite a late wobble, you have just won £630,000 (€830,000) and the biggest title of your career.
So it was for Chris Wood as he remained blind to the exploits of his rivals at the BMW PGA Championship on his way to entering the world’s top 25 and making himself long odds-on to qualify for his first Ryder Cup.
Wood always threatened to break into the big time and here it was where all that potential he showed when finishing in the top five of the British Open in 2008 as an amateur and then finishing third as a pro in the following year’s British major was finally realised. At last, the 6ft 6in Bristolian’s stature in the game is beginning to match his height.
Certainly the doors have swung wide open. The 28-year-old has leapt to third in the European points standings and has one foot on Darren Clarke’s plane for Hazeltine in September. Wood could rise to 22nd in the rankings when they are published today and with the top 15 going to the Olympics, he has an obvious target before the cut-off point in six weeks’ time.
Injuries to his back and wrist cruelly held Wood back in the pursuit of his ambitions but now it all stretches ahead of him uninhibited. The Ryder Cup looms largest of all. “I knew events like this are key to making the team,” Wood said. “You can’t plan to win tournaments like this, but you can plan to prepare as well as you can. And to pull it off is massive – this a huge step towards that for me.”
Clarke will be impressed with the manner in which Wood nervelessly pulled away, hitting his approach on the first to two feet and then holing a swirling 20-footer for eagle on the fourth. Having started in fifth he grabbed the lead with another birdie on the fifth, and when he birdied the seventh and ninth he had equalled the front-nine record of 29 – set by countryman Danny Willett on Thursday – and was four shots clear.
Not that he knew it. Wood had decided not to look at the scoreboards, instead relying on his caddie, Mark ‘Punk’ Crane, to inform him of the urgency of the situation. “When you get off to a start like I did, the front nine holes really, you know that you’re at least vying for the lead,” Wood said.
So he did not know that overnight leader Scott Hend was having a nightmare and that Tyrrell Hatton, the 24-year-old from Buckinghamshire, was also in reverse, as was Lee Westwood (whose 76 took him back to three-under and a tie for 15th). Willett, the Masters champion, fared commendably after his tournament-wrecking third-round 76, with his 71 eventually earning him outright third on seven-under.
The number that suddenly mattered was eight-under posted by Rikard Karlberg courtesy of an outrageous 65 which the Swede signed for two hours before Wood completed his 69. By then the tension had built as Wood had thrown away shots down the stretch.
After three bogeys in four holes from the 14th, Wood went up the last with the narrowest advantage but a par was good enough to clinch the title.
Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell wrapped up his tournament with an even-par 72 which saw him finish in a tie for 27th spot on a one-under-par total, eight shots behind Wood. © Daily Telegraph