Euro Tour. ISPS Handa Wales Open. Espen Kofstad First Round Leader

Espen Kofstad, from Norway is the first round leader in the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor.

Espen Kofstad  (Getty Images)

Espen Kofstad /Getty Images

Espen shot a first round -7 under par 64 on the par 71 layout at Celtic Manor. He was playing in the presence of Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley on  first day of qualification for next year’s side begins. Espen had a fine finish to his round with birdies at 15,16,17, and rounded it all off with an Eagle three at the 18th. A neck injury saw him withdraw from the French Open, but after receiving medical attention has burst back onto the scene. He said his round was a good application for Paul to consider;

“I have been very, very calm the last two weeks, I started to settle down a bit. I was a bit stressed and tentative and wasn’t able to practice as much as I wanted to with my neck injury. Today I wasn’t nervous and it felt really easy. I kept hitting the shots and they came off in the end. I got a little lucky I suppose holing a long putt on the 17th and the bunker shot on the last. I was only trying to get it ten-fifteen feet past the hole because it was a tough shot.It would be great to play in the Ryder Cup, although I can’t really expect a spot. But I put in a decent application today.”

Paul, -1 under par, was certainly impressed;

“What a finish, to finish birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle is fantastic. He hit it a million miles, hit a lot of fairways, played very well and he deserved that score.”

Tied in second place, two shots behind on -5 under par are Chris Wood and Richard Green. Chris was happy to be so close to his home, in Bristol City;

“Even though I’m English I do think of this as a home event and it’s one I’d love to win. It’s nice to be able to stay at home this week, dinner is on the table when you walk in the door, and I treated my caddie to a Bristol City game on Tuesday. We beat Crystal Palace in the Capital One Cup so I think he got lucky. It’s probably the best I have seen them play for a couple of years so I think Brendan is now a bit of a closet fan.”

Richard is another player battling injury, a dodgy wrist,, tennis elbow and bad shoulder, he said his game is getting better. He needs it to because he is at 112 on the list and is in danger of losing his playing privileges for next year.

“The signs are good.  I’ve been suffering a bit of tennis elbow and a bit of a dodgy right wrist and a bad shoulder, as you do when you get older. I’m managing them pretty well, the guys in the physio truck are looking after me pretty well and getting me fit to play. As long as I keep up that sort of work and keep fit, I’ll be all right. I’ve gone 20 years in my golf career injury-free and all of a sudden in one year, I’ve got three different things bothering me.”

At -4 under par, and tied in fourth place are Tjaart Van Der Walt, Mark Foster and Gregory Bourdy. It will be interesting tomorrow to see if Espen can keep up the fast pace he has set here at Celtic Manor for the second round.

Handa Wales Open @ Celtic Manor, Jaidee Wins

Thongchai Jaidee  (Getty Images) Thongchai Jaidee (Getty Images)

Thongchai Jaidee won the Handa Wales Open at a wet and windy Celtic Manor to claim his first European Tour win on European soil, all four of his previous victories on his home continent. Thongchai’s last round 72 gave him a tournament total of -6 under par, to win by one shot from Thomas Bjorn, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, Joost Luiten and Richard Sterne, who all finished at -5 under par.

Thongchai was really pleased with his win. albeit with rules officials assistance;

” I want to say thank you to all my family, all the supporters and the sponsors here. Conditions were quite tough for me. I tried to hit everything on the fairway, that’s the main thing, then hit the ball on the green. It was very, very tough for me, not like Thailand!”

 Ross Fisher finished at -4 under par and left with far less happy memories this time after being penalised a shot for slow play when one off the lead. Ross  fell foul of European Tour rules when he took too long over shots at the 11th and 14th holes, exceeding the allocated 40 seconds on both occasions. By comparison, Joost Luiten was told to speed up, but no penalty stroke awarded. Would be interesting if they used this 40 second rule on the USPGA Tour, the amount of time some of those players take, they could be in danger of losing a few players at each tournament.

So golf is now another one of those sports where the winner is decided by officials, rather than the team or player who actually performs better but just gets a contentious call from officialdom. Are all the officials on the course presented with a stop watch at the start of play everyday ?

Ross commented after the tournament;

” I don’t think it’s justice, but there you go.”

Handa Wales Open @ Celtic Manor,Thongnchai Jaidee leads by one.

Thongchai Jaidee  (Getty Images)

Thongchai Jaidee (Getty Images)

Thongchai Jaidee has given himself an opportunity to register his first victory on European soil as a third round -4 under par,67  in the Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor puts him in the lead at  the top of the leader board. The Thai golfer now has an advantage in the ISPS Handa Wales Open,  over second round leader Ross Fisher, who could only muster a par third round and also Joost Luiten. Joost had an amazing third round of -7 under par 64, which propelled him up the leader board into tied for second place.

Thongchai is excited by the opportunity to win in on European soil for the first time;

 I’ve won a lot of times in Asia and I’ve played well a lot of times in Asia. In Europe, it’s very important for me to do well because the weather is going to be very difficult for me. I’ve learned a lot of things, how to play with these conditions. I think this time it’s a very good chance. You never know how it’s going to be tomorrow, but I’ll try to give it my best and look forward. If I keep my game plan like this, I have a good chance. I’ll play my own game, the best thing to do is to hit fairways, hit the greens and putt well. That’s my key tomorrow.”

The 42-year-old Thongchai birdied the par five 18th after an incredible drive measured at 410 yards,and then only needed a seven iron second to the 575 yard hole. He unfortunately pushed it into a bunker, but made a 12 foot putt for the outright lead.

 He was pleasantly surprised with the drive;

“I think 320 is the longest for me, so when we got to the top of the hill I asked ‘where’s the ball?’ and a marshal told me. I thought it was 390, but 410 sounds better.” He

Ross Fisher stubbed his toe in his hotel room on Friday night;

“There were a few expletives and it was extremely painful. I couldn’t put any weight on it and half-contemplated playing in trainers.
One of the toes is as purple as anything. I iced it and two of the toes were strapped together, but I hit it everywhere and I’m glad to finish. It would mean a lot to win. I set very high standards and I reached 17th in the world, so I know I have the game. “

“Given where I hit it that’s one of the best level par rounds I’ve ever had. I hung in there and dug deep.

Dutchman, Tim Sluiter is another shot further back after his third round score of  -3 under par, 68, and is alone with a tournament total of -5 under par.

Germany’s Marcel Siem has made a remarkable recovery from yesterday’s poor round, to shoot a third round -5 under par 66, which has put him in good position to maybe have a say in the outcome of this tournament tomorrow.

Handa Wales Open @ Celtic Manor, Ross Fisher Leads after 2nd round.

Ross Fisher  (Getty Images)

Ross Fisher (Getty Images)

Ross Fisher of England shot a -5 under par, 66, to lead the Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor by two strokes from yesterday’s first round leader Lee Slattery. Lee had an ordinary second round of just par following his 66 yesterday, while Marcel Siem had an awful +4 over par, 75 after his good start in the first round with a 68.

Ross likes this course, he said in interview;

“It’s always nice to come back to good hunting ground, familiar turf. The Ryder Cup was a great experience, I played really well that week and enjoyed it. There are certain spots that you think, yeah, the pin was there in The Ryder Cup, or I hit it here and holed this putt, or hit that shot from here.  You do try and remember those memories, and feed them into a positive outcome for this week.  I have some fond memories and I’ve had some decent results here, but it’s a course that I feel should suit me.

He explained about his shot into the par three third;

” I hit a nice six iron below the hole to about 12 feet, 15 feet and made that. I actually felt like I was going to hole that because I think either I had that putt or Poults had that in The Ryder Cup, so I knew exactly where I was going to hit it. There was no way I was missing that one.”

Lee Slattery had an eagle on the eleventh hole, which helped him recover from a wobbly start to the second round;

“I think the eagle on 11 was  the turning point in the round. The swing certainly didn’t feel as good as yesterday. I hit a lot of shots left but just managed to bounce back well.”

Ross is now at -6 under par for the tournament, with Lee Slattery at -4. Still in the hunt are three players on -3 under par, the are; Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay, Jaidee Thongchai from Thailand and England’s Chris Wood. Another name in the frame after the first round Tim Sluiter from the Netherlands also had a poor second round, a +1 over par effort that leaves him with a tournament score of -2 under par.

Dutchman Tim Sluiter remained upbeat despite bogeying three of his last five holes.

“On this course, anything around par is a good score. I’m very pleased where I am, and I kept myself in it.”