Bjorn again on song with 66 while solid Wall excels

James Corrigan,Ireland
Saturday 20 May 2006 00:00 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


The last time Anthony Wall was in contention for an Irish Open he proposed to his future wife. Half a decade on and he is up there again. Maybe after so many years of "I don'ts" the "I dos" are about to start arriving all over again for this genial Londoner.

Wall is one of that ever-swelling band of one-hit golfers who promised much with a debut victory - in South Africa in 2000 - but then delivered not very much at all. He did have a valid excuse to fall back on, having contracted glandular fever and then chronic fatigue syndrome. But still the feeling has persisted with this 30-year-old that here was one of those rather wealthy underachievers the European Tour is so adept at producing.

Far from contradicting the point, his march to three-under and within one of the early clubhouse leader, Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts, was only added proof of Wall's potential. There is nothing loud about him - especially his mouth - but this church mouse does have teeth. As it has stamina.

"I can't recall too many tennis players finishing playing at 9.30pm one night and have to be back on court again at 7am the next morning," he said, reflecting on the inconvenience wreaked by Thursday's weather delay. In truth, Wall was one of the lucky ones as he missed the gales of the first morning and could complete his first-round 73 in the best of the conditions early yesterday.

His second-round 68, though, was admirable whatever the conditions and owed much to five months of intense practice and tuition in Sydney. Wall had promised Sharon, the former air hostess he wooed in economy, that they could return to her homeland to spend the winter British months. She enjoyed it, the two kids enjoyed it and Wall was on the range eight hours a day. "I'm enjoying it now, though," he laughed.

But his round of six birdies and two bogeys was not the day's best; that credit went to Thomas Bjorn with a course record-equalling 66. The last time Bjorn was leading in Ireland he went down on both knees in an horrendous last-round 86 in the European Open last July. "A lot has happened since then," he said, his eyes rolling almost as predictably as his Titleist just had. "I almost won a major at the USPGA and have come through a few tests of character since."

The emotional Dane would never admit to it, but he does seem to like "tests of character" and here he faced a veritable Phd on completing his first round. On the 18th he stumbled to a card-ripping, triple-bogey eight, leaving him at six-over and staring at a weekend off, with his dream of qualifying for his third Ryder Cup slimmer by the cut.

Cue soul-searching, with only 50 minutes until he was due to tee off again Luckily for Bjorn, his sports psychologist, Jos Vanstiphout, was on hand to provide such pearls as "hang in there" and six birdies and no bogeys later he was "right in there" on level par.

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