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Westwood wager Wakefield wows windy San Roque

Lee Westwood is one of the world’s top golfers but is also fairly shrewd when it comes to placing the odd bet or two. The Ryder Cup star proved that once again when his selection to win the European Tour Qualifying School Finals –his International Sports Management stablemate Simon Wakefield – moved into a share of the lead with Mark Mouland and Raphaël Pellicioli after the first round at San Roque.

All three players carded three under par 69s at the Costa del Sol venue, the only difference being that Wakefield compiled his on the Old Course while Mouland and Pellicioli put their excellent opening efforts together, on a difficult and blustery day, on the San Roque complex’s adjacent New Course.

For a long time Wakefield hoped he would not have to make the journey to the Qualifying School Finals, clinging on to the 116th and final spot on the Volvo Order of Merit as the Tour moved into its penultimate event, the Open de Madrid at Club de Campo.

But with Richard Sterne winning the event and Wade Ormsby finishing tied sixth to move up, Wakefield – who missed the cut in Spain – slipped down to 118th place and knew he would have to make arrangements to travel to San Roque.

He did not relish the trip but encouragement from his ISM colleagues, which included text messages from Darren Clarke, and word that Westwood had placed £10 on him to win at 33/1, gave the 30 year old the self-belief he needed.

Lee Westwood
“Guys like that don’t have to do things like that but the fact that they do is fantastic and to have that level of support behind me from them and from my managers Chubby (Chandler) and Mark (Bell), really helps me,” he said.

Knocking a difficult 40 foot putt stone dead for par at his opening hole, the 528 yard tenth, gave Wakefield the belief he needed on the greens and, apart from missing a six foot putt for par on the first, he was flawless on the putting surfaces, birdieing the fifth, ninth, 12th and 13th.

Across the complex on the New Course, Welshman Mark Mouland was equally delighted to have opened his account well, the 43 year old two time winner on The European Tour, like Wakefield, notching four birdies and only dropping one shot – at the 15th where he missed the green and failed to get up and down.

But apart from that, everything was positive for the man who carried on the good form he showed last week when he came through Stage Two of the Qualifying School at Oliva Nova, in third place, thanks to a final round 64.

“I read a brilliant comment from Roger Chapman when he said that the Tour School was like playing 108 first holes of the Open Championship,” said Mouland. “It is a very similar feeling to that because you are just trying desperately to keep the big scores off your card.”

Joining Mouland late in the day was Frenchman Raphaël Pellicioli, who finished in 62nd place in last year’s Tour School Finals but who has yet to experience life on The European Tour. The Challenge Tour player gave himself the perfect start in that quest however with a fine round which featured five birdies and two bogeys.

“Last year I managed to play all six rounds, I hope I can do that again but obviously I need to improve my finish to get my card,” he said. “But there is a long way to go between now and the final round. I agree with Mark when he says you have to try and keep the high scores off your card but sometimes that is easier said than done!”

The toughness of the first day’s conditions were summed up by the fact that only 15 players of the 168 starters on both courses finished under par, the other 12 ending their rounds on one under par 71; Joakim Backstrom, Nicolas Colsaerts, Pelle Edberg, Jeff Hall, Carlos Quevedo and Iain Steel carding their rounds on the Old Course, while André Bossert, Peter Gustafsson, Paul Marantz, Mahal Pearce, Daniel Vancsik and Oliver Whiteley scored on the New Course.

Further down the first day’s scoreboard, one of the best recoveries of the day was staged by Chapman himself who got off to a terrible start, reaching the turn in six over par 42, before producing a flawless inward half of 34 which included birdies at both par fives – the tenth and 17th.

Roger Chapman
The 45 year old Englishman admitted however, that he had some help in his reversal of fortunes, namely some words of encouragement from former England international footballer Trevor Francis.

The pair have been friends for several years and Francis, who has property nearby, came out to watch Chapman play his back nine. He was not happy at the position he found his friend and told him so – seemingly to good effect!

“Actually I was going to walk in after the ninth hole, I just didn’t want to be here, but then I knuckled down,” admitted Chapman. “In fact, Trevor came out and gave me a real talking to! He said, ‘Look, I’ve come out here to watch good golf so get on with it!’ So that is what I did.

“I actually made birdie on the first hole he watched me – the tenth – and it was pretty good after that. It was good on the back nine, all right, played a lot better. It was tricky over the first few holes with the wind but I have got myself back into a position. A couple of 68s now and I am back into it.”

Courtesy of www.europeantour.com

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