Wood sets course record in pursuit of first title

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The Independent Online

While all the chatter in the Usk Valley here this week concerns the Ryder Cup, Chris Wood has more mundane matters on his mind. Let the rest worry about a match taking place in four months' time. To young Chris from Bristol it's all about the here and now and a chance to win "just another sort of normal European Tour event".

Not that the 22-year-old was being dismissive of the Wales Open, or indeed of the Twenty Ten course that will host Colin Montgomerie's crusade to beat the Americans. It's simply that, where he is in his career right now, victory in a tournament such as this would be the natural progression for a burgeoning pro with everything he should have on his CV but the "W".

"The Ryder Cup's not a massive goal of mine, it's completely in the back of my mind," he said. "To be honest, I'm just looking for a win now. I've put myself in position a little bit, been in contention, so I've just got to stay patient. Hopefully it will happen."

A first-round 65 yesterday certainly makes it more likely. The course record gave him a one-stroke advantage over the home hope Bradley Dredge and the Australian Andrew Dodt. His relaxed, almost horizontal persona, belied the guts Wood showed on this formidable but sun-drenched layout. His last round happened to be a 77 when leading by two in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth two weeks' ago. And that is an event which Wood concedes is rather bigger than a "normal European Tour event".

"I was disappointed but learnt a lot from leading going into the final round of what is pretty much the biggest event on the European Tour all season, with one of the best fields all season," he said. "I had to deal with all those different things, with the pressure, and although it didn't work out it's certainly going to help me when it happens again."

Everything on his formsheet signifies this will be in two days' time. Wood preceded a sixth place at Wentworth with a fifth in Majorca and a third in Italy. After he recorded his remarkable back-to-back top-five finishes in the last two Opens, there had been whispers that the lanky lad with the moppy hair was a links specialist. He has since proved that he is rather more than that – a man for all courses and definitely one for the future.

In truth, Wood should have the Ryder Cup as an ambition if not an objective, as he genuinely is that talented. But he has time on his side and someone like Dredge is without that luxury. Not if he wants to be the local hero in the greatest golf show ever to land on his doorstep. "The Ryder Cup is massive for me," said the 36-year-old, who has only enjoyed one top 10 all year. "I still think it's possible for me, but I need to win some tournaments. This would be a great place to start." Indeed, it would. For he and Wood both.