Chris Wood one off the lead on good day for English golf at KLM Open
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 15/09/18 5:50pm
Chris Wood spearheaded a strong English challenge as he ended the opening round of the KLM Open just one shot off the lead.
Wood fired a bogey-free 65 to claim the early clubhouse lead before he was surpassed by Ashun Wu, while Eddie Pepperell was among 13 players to card a 66 in friendly conditions at Spijk in the Netherlands.
Ryder Cup assistant captains Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington mixed planning for Paris with some good golf as they both shot 68, but it was Wu who took the honours on day one after being the only player to get to seven under par.
The Chinese star, who enjoyed his second top-10 finish of an inconsistent season at last week's Omega European Masters, started at the 10th and followed two opening pars with five birdies over the next seven holes to cover the back nine in 31.
Wu then picked up further strokes at both the par-threes on the front nine to snatch the outright lead ahead of Wood, who got off to an encouraging start when he made three consecutive birdies from the 13th.
The 2016 Ryder Cup star, who remains without a European Tour title since winning the BMW PGA Championship two seasons ago, added another birdie at the third before adding two more over his last three holes to close on six under.
"It was perfect out there this morning," said Wood. "The course is in such good condition and the greens are as good as any that we have played all year. When that is one of the best parts of your game it is great, especially when you get your eye in and knock a few in like I did today.
"Off the tee it is tough here. There is a little bit of room on some holes which helps me out as I'm not the straightest with the driver but there are a few drives here that you have to hit really well. That's the key for me really, if I can put the ball on the fairway then my iron play, my wedge play and my putting is good enough."
Pepperell, who narrowly missed out on qualifying for his Ryder Cup debut this month, drew level with Wood when he followed an outward 32 with a flying start to the back nine, holing a monster 75-foot putt for birdie at 10 and converting excellent approaches for further gains on each of the next two greens.
But the charismatic 27-year-old tugged his second into trouble at the long 15th, a mistake which led to a bogey-six, and he parred in to stay in the logjam at five under along with fellow Englishmen Matthew Southgate, Jordan Smith, Ashley Chesters and Aaron Rai.
Scotland's former Amateur champion Bradley Neil, who needs a big finish to the season to retain his card, mixed seven birdies with a pair of bogeys to also sit two off the pace heading into the second round.
Westwood admitted he was "grumpy and miserable" after he bogeyed three of his first four holes, but he staged a superb recovery and salvaged a creditable 68 with his seventh birdie of the round at the ninth.
Playing partner Harrington also closed with a three at the ninth as did the third member of their group, Ross Fisher, but that merely got the Englishman back to six over after he littered his card with three bogeys, one double and a triple at the par-four second.