SOUTHPORT, England — It’s Justin Rose all over again.
As at Royal Birkdale in 1998, the winner of the Silver Medal for the best amateur finish in the 2008 British Open is an English lad who chipped in on 18 — this time in the second round, not on Sunday. Still, Chris Wood, 20, shot a two-over-par 72 in the final round to finish at 10 over and in a tie for fifth with Jim Furyk.
“It’s been the best week of my life,” Wood said. “I love playing in front of a crowd. I’ve been getting standing ovations on every green. It’s been awesome. But I must admit it — I got nervous when they announced my name on the first tee.”
Wood, who’s 6’5″ and built like a 1-iron, started the final round in ninth place, six shots off Greg Norman’s lead. He spoke with confidence Saturday of not only winning the Silver Medal but of becoming the first amateur to grab the Claret Jug since Bobby Jones in his Grand Slam year of 1930.
“Yeah, I can win it,” Wood said. “Why not? I probably need to shoot 66 or 67 and also have things go my way but, hey, Camilo Villegas birdied the last five holes on Friday, so anything can happen.”
Birdies at the seventh and ninth got Wood to within two of lead, but bogeys on 11, 12 and 13 sent him back down the leaderboard.
“Probably not my day,” Wood said after his round. “It was unfortunate to have three bogeys in the middle of the back nine. That’s not what you need to win tournaments like this.”
But he did beat back the challenge of the only other amateur to make the weekend — fellow Englishman Thomas Sherreard. The Georgia State student finished at 14 over and in a tie for 19th place, joining Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Trevor Immelman.
Wood, the world’s sixth-ranked amateur, plans to make next year’s Great Britain-and-Ireland Walker Cup team, then enter the British and U.S. Amateur championships before turning pro. He hails from the Long Ashton Golf Club in Bristol in southern England but dreamed of playing professional soccer until a knee injury dashed those hopes. Soccer’s loss was golf’s gain.
In addition to his father, Richard, serving as caddie, Wood had 60 friends shouting encouragement throughout his first Championship appearance. He survived local qualifying at a nearby club to make the field, and four rounds later teed it up on Sunday with the eventual runner-up, Ian Poulter.
“I didn’t know what to expect playing with him,” Wood said. “He’s such a great player and was such a nice guy going ’round. It was probably the best moment of the week for me to see him holing that putt on the last. I was just so pleased for him.”
One important member of Wood’s entourage missed the excitement. His sister Abigail didn’t quite grasp the importance of her brother’s week and so set off on vacation instead. “My sister is traveling in Europe,” Wood said with a laugh. “She sent a text the other day saying: ‘Are you at that Open thingy yet?’ I don’t think she knows much about golf.”