Chris Wood didn’t expect to contend for the $2.1 million KLM Open. It’s not easy for a player making major swing changes to concentrate on winning, yet the Englishman sits at the top of the leaderboard on 13 under after posting a third round 6-under 65.
Three-time winner Wood is one shot ahead of the trio of Ashun Wu, Hideto Tanihara and 6-foot-9-inch compatriot Jonathan Thomson, the man who stole Wood’s mantle as the European Tour’s tallest player.
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” Wood said. “I finished poorly last night, and I’m making a couple of quite big swing changes at the moment.”
Wood made his Ryder Cup debut two years ago. However, he wasn’t part of the Ryder Cup conversation this time around because his form has been iffy ever since Hazeltine. He does have two second place finishes this season, in the Oman and French Opens. However, he’s also missed seven cuts and his best finish after the two second places is 13th in the Qatar Masters.
Hence the swing changes.
Wood played the last nine holes of his second round in 2 over, and dropped another shot at the start of his third round when he bogeyed the par-4 second. He reeled off seven birdies over the next 16 holes to take the lead, and it’s forced him to re-evaluate his goal for the week.
“My target was 15 under for the tournament so I’m going to look a little bit differently at that now,” he revealed. “I’ll take another 65 tomorrow if you offer it me now.”
Wood hasn’t won since the 2016 BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. That victory sealed his Ryder Cup spot. A win in The Netherlands might just be as important given that Wood has cut a frustrated figure on European fairways the last two years.
Thomson returned a 68 to stay in contention. At 155th on the money list, the man nicknamed “Jigger” is looking for a good finish to avoid returning to the Qualifying School.
Thirty-six-hole leader Wu struggled to a level-par 71, while Tanihara leapt into contention with an 8-under 63. Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington is tied sixth on 10 under after a 65.