GOLF: Flawless round puts Wilson in sight of Fasth

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The Independent Online
THE ENGLISH rookie Oliver Wilson is only three shots off the lead in the New Zealand Open a week after fearing he had contracted pneumonia.

Wilson carded a flawless second-round 65 to be 13 under on another day of low scoring at Gulf Harbour. Miles Tunnicliff, Niclas Fasth and Richard Green all equalled the course record of 63 set by Scott Verplank and Patrik Sjoland in the 1998 World Cup.

Fasth stormed home in 30 strokes with back-to-back eagles to lead on 16 under, two ahead of Tunnicliff who had earlier set the clubhouse target with eight birdies and an eagle.

Wilson only turned professional 18 months ago after helping Britain and Ireland retain the Walker Cup in 2003. After failing to win his card at the US Tour school, he turned to the European Challenge Tour last year and won the 15th and final card.

His rookie year on the main tour almost got off to a terrible start, however, when he fell ill at the Caltex Masters and was taken to hospital after his first round in Melbourne last week.

"It turned out to be a throat infection but at first they thought it was pneumonia," said the 24-year-old. "I tried to play in Melbourne but had to withdraw after the first round and was in bed all week.

"It's great to be so close to the lead here. I'm not too used to it so it's all a bit of a new experience. It's important to get off to a good start and make as much money as possible. You want to secure your card as early as you can."

Wilson was a three-time "All American" during his time at Augusta State University and recorded a best score of 72 on the college's annual visits to Augusta National, home of the US Masters. He is based in America over the winter and works with New York-based coach Mitchell Spearman, who formerly worked for David Leadbetter.

Tunnicliff, winner of the Diageo Championship at Gleneagles in 2004, had looked a good bet to lead at the end of the day after closing with birdies at 17 and 18.

"I hadn't been playing that well coming into this tournament," said Tunnicliff, who needed nine visits to the qualifying school before gaining his European Tour card.

"It's only my third event and I was a bit rusty but I started feeling more comfortable yesterday and got the putter working and that made the difference."

Scores, Digest, page 64