A year ago this week, the name Chris Wood was on almost no one’s lips as the great and the good of the sport rolled into Royal Birkdale for the Open Championship. One week later and the staggeringly tall 20-year-old amateur had finished 5th, won the Silver Medal and charmed us with his remarkable game and on-course personality (remember him working the crowd to cheer more after one particularly spectacular chip in?).
One year later, the now 21-year-old professional has been successfully through Q School and is already 74th in the Race To Dubai.
This week at Turnberry will be different. Suddenly, there are expectations that can create nerves and that means finishing 5th or better in 2009 will be one helluva achievement if Chris can manage it. But such a result it is not beyond his grasp.
I had a 20-minute Q&A with Chris last week at the launch of my latest book – Golf On The Edge 2: Q School Complete – because, firstly, he features heavily in the volume and, secondly, the members of Long Ashton GC in Bristol (where he is still a member and where the launch was staged) were anxious to catch up on his progress.
Before an audience of about 50 members, Chris admitted that last year as an amateur he just kept going without any pressure on him. “It’s why amateurs can sometimes do so well before they turn professional,” he said. “You don’t take it all in until afterwards and you just enjoy every minute.” He said he was most nervous playing with Ian Poulter on the last day only because he didn’t know what to expect from the Flashy One.
Chris made the decision to turn pro the following weekend and was never in any doubt, even though he wanted to play in the Walker Cup 2009. “I’d made a name for myself in the Open and that was what the Walker Cup was going to do for me, so there wasn’t really any point in waiting. I was at the top of the amateur game and now, it seems like it would’ve been an awful long wait.”
The thing I particularly like about Chris is that his strength is his short game. So many young players want to blast the ball a million miles, but Chris is different. He is 6ft 5ins tall and has had a personal trainer for years to give him the necessary muscles (check out his biceps sometime), so length off the tee is not an issue. Instead, he knows his strong short game is the difference in the pro ranks between good and great, so he works hard to improve that.
Yes, Chris Wood is one of several young Brits who came through 2008 Q School – Danny Willett, Callum Macaulay and Jonathan Caldwell are others – with the brightest of futures. I think only Rory McIlroy is ahead of him in terms of youth and potential and this week in Scotland I expect that view to be confirmed.
So, here’s the deal – I sold a few copies of my book in Bristol last week and there’s a couple of quid in my pocket. A few Long Ashton members cleared several hundred pounds last year with each way bets on Chris and I think I might join them in the bookies this time around.
Ross Biddiscombe is the author of the new book Golf On The Edge 2: Q School Complete. Go to golfontheedge.co.uk for details.
More Open news: Saltman brothers earn Open Championship places at Turnberry
Equipment review: Scotty Cameron Studio Select Kombi putter review
Amateur news: St Josephs and Castle Court win at The Shire
Competitions: Some great new prizes to be won