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Wild card Bond takes shock lead in Wales

Liam Bond is ranked 1,528th in the world and only got into the tournament at the last minute, but the 43-year-old Welshman found himself holding the halfway lead in the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor.

Bond received a phone call telling him he was in the £1.8million event on Wednesday afternoon, but made the most of his opportunity with rounds of 69 and 68 to finish five under par, one shot clear of overnight leader Espen Kofstad and South African Tjaart van der Walt.

Norwegian Kofstad could only add a second-round 74 to his opening 64 to finish four under, one ahead of playing partner and European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, who carded four birdies and two bogeys in a 69.

The club professional at nearby St Pierre, Bond won his European Tour card on 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.

Since then he has concentrated largely on regional events, winning three this season, and missed the cut in his only Challenge Tour event of 2013 in Scotland in June.

"I'm playing way better than when I had my card in 2011," said Bond, whose career earnings of around £100,000 are dwarfed by the first prize here of £300,000, not to mention the Ryder Cup points on offer in the first qualifying event.

PRESSURE

"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 was trying to work harder and hit more balls and everything was under close scrutiny.

"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'm just trying to play and enjoy it."

McGinley has already ruled himself out of playing in the Ryder Cup next year but said: "I'm keen to play well to get into better tournaments so I can play alongside my players."

Damien McGrane is also in a strong position going into the weekend, lying just two behind McGinley on one under after going around in 71 yesterday.


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