Khan's living room practice paves way for record charge

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The Independent Online

Simon Khan was watching Scott Drummond winning from nowhere at Wentworth last Sunday when he turned to his wife and bemoaned his putting for costing him the chance to sample such glory. "Well you won't do anything about it by sitting there will you?" Lesley told him. Khan got up, pulled out a new putter and practised for a few hours on the living-room carpet.

Simon Khan was watching Scott Drummond winning from nowhere at Wentworth last Sunday when he turned to his wife and bemoaned his putting for costing him the chance to sample such glory. "Well you won't do anything about it by sitting there will you?" Lesley told him. Khan got up, pulled out a new putter and practised for a few hours on the living-room carpet.

It worked, boy did it work, as the 31-year-old proved to devastating effect yesterday when equalling the European Tour record for the opening nine holes to lead the Wales Open. The Essex player, who has been through qualifying school six times, negotiated the first nine here in an astounding 27 strokes, some nine-under par, before finishing with an 11-under 61 to leave him at 14 under, two ahead of Paul Casey in second with Colin Montgomerie and Dublin's Peter Lawrie a further three shots back in third.

Indeed, when Khan stood on the 10th tee that magical number of 59 must have been written in giant numbers at the forefront of his mind. He had rattled through the first six holes in a giddying seven under, a chip-in eagle at the par-five fifth neatly flanked by five birdies. The solitary par of the run came at the par-three seventh, but Khan was soon back among the red figures with two putts of around 18 feet on the par-four eighth and par-three ninth. As always happens in the goldfish bowl that is the Tour, the news of "saga Khan" spread its way through the course and Casey even confessed that his group were taking "friendly wagers" on how he would finish. Khan's charge slowed slightly with a par on the 10th but then an 80-yard pitch to the par-five 11th left him with a five-footer to roll in - 10 under and three more birdies needed to become the first player on Tour to fire a 59.

Perhaps feeling the pace after the 7.40am start, Khan's putter cooled down from there and five straight pars stopped the statisticians whirring. Saying that a four-foot putt for birdie on the 17th meant that Khan could still eagle the last to make history, and he actually had a pitch to do it, but sent it 15 feet past and took par.

"As the round went on you couldn't really help but think of 59," admitted Khan. "But I feel fantastic. It was surprising how relaxed I was. When you are in that position you don't know how you are going to react, but I feel great." So, too did Casey, whose own 63 was overshadowed somewhat by Khan's course record. "You have to take your hat off to Simon," he said. "Having a chip for a 59 is very, very impressive. Especially as this doesn't strike me as a low-round course."

Not to say that Casey wasn't capable of shooting lower yesterday. A five-footer on the 16th went begging as did a few other chances, but Casey was not about to start whinging after he had managed to put "distracting off-course issues", that he would not be drawn on, behind him to move into contention here with nine birdies. If he does want any advice about "off-course issues" he should go no further than Montgomerie whose recent personal problems were aggravated on Thursday night when he was forced to drive the few hours' journey back to his flat to sort out a leak; it never rains but it pours. In the circumstances the Scot did well to come in with a 68.

Ian Woosnam was also pretty chipper after his 69 took him to four under to help him banish the horrors of the last few months, but the same could not be said for Lee Westwood who cut a forlorn figure as he missed the cut on six over.

Wales Open (Celtic Manor) Leading second-round scores and totals (GB or Irl unless stated): 130 S Khan 69 61. 132 P Casey 69 63. 135 C Montgomerie 67 68. 136 S Jeppesen (Swe) 71 65; J Kingston (SA) 70 66 137 D Carter 68 69; N O'Hern (Aus) 70 67; C Cevaer (Fr) 67 70; P Golding 71 66; S Gallacher 71 66. 138 P Nyman (Swe) 70 68; M Olander (Swe) 72 66; P Baker 70 68; M Fraser (Aus) 72 66; M A Martin (Sp) 69 69; M Siem (Ger) 66 72. 139 M Vibe-Hastrup (Den) 70 69; S Kjeldsen (Den) 69 70; D Lynn 69 70; S Dodd 70 69; D Howell 65 74; B Austin 71 68; G Murphy 68 71; P Hanson (Swe) 69 70. 140 N Colsaerts (Bel) 73 67; A Forsyth 74 66; I Poulter 71 69; T Price (Aus) 71 69; R Karlsson (Swe) 68 72; D Dixon 70 70; S Little 68 72; R Sterne (SA) 71 69; M Maritz (SA) 69 71; M Erlandsson (Swe) 71 69; G Evans 71 69; M Foster 71 69; T Levet (Fr) 69 71; I Woosnam 71 69.

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