26 May Closing eagle sees Morrison soar clear
James Morrison took full advantage of easier morning conditions at a sun-drenched Wentworth Club to race into a four shot halfway lead at the BMW PGA Championship.Before the wind got up World Number 236 Morrison, who switched to golf after playing for the England youth cricket team alongside current Test stars Alastair Cook and Tim Bresnan, added a sparkling 64 to his opening 68.
At 12 under par the 27 year old, who eagled the last from 25 feet, moved four clear of World Number Two Luke Donald, who won the title at only six under last year, and Scot David Drysdale.
Donald now needs only a top eight finish to take the World Number One spot back off in what would be the sixth change at the top in under three months.
That is because current incumbent Rory McIlroy dropped nine shots in eight holes from the eighth en route to a 79 and a second successive missed cut.
He was one under par and inside the cut mark after seven holes, but after a double bogey at the next he ran up five bogeys in a row, and an early exit beckoned.
Just over 24,000 spectators, the second highest Friday attendance following record crowds the previous day, gathered on Wentworth’s West Course to witness the action first hand on another glorious day in Surrey.
Morrison had earlier blown away the field by following six birdies with a 25 foot eagle putt on the 539 yard last.
His story is a remarkable one. The 27 year old did not take up golf until he was 16, but went from 18-handicap to scratch in ten months.
That prompted him to give up cricket, despite his final game for Surrey Under-17s being an innings of 114 not out.
“I haven’t really looked back,” he said.
“Playing golf is better than standing in the field all day.”
The money is better too. He has already won over €1,000,000 with his maiden European Tour title coming at the Madeira Islands Open in 2010 – and first prize this weekend is €750,000.
As for what he faces over the closing 36 holes Morrison, who was joint leader with a round to go in the Alstom Open de France last summer and went in the water on the first two holes, is not getting ahead of himself.
“I expect a lot, but if I shoot 80 or 65 I’ll take what I can from it,” he said.
“I desperately, desperately, desperately want to keep going forward and that’s my problem sometimes – I’m too eager, too keen, too determined I guess.
“I’ve been playing great, but been getting in the way of myself. I’m going to do my best and that’s all I can do.”
Donald is still well in contention for the title, however, after his second successive 68.
He said: “I’m feeling very strong on the greens. I feel like something that has been not as consistent for me over the last couple of months, but felt very comfortable on the greens the last two days.
“Every time I’ve had opportunities, I’m seeing the line, and got the speed down and making some good putts.”
Immediately behind Donald and Drysdale, who followed his opening round of 66 with a 70, lies Ireland’s Peter Lawrie (71) and Spaniard Alvaro Quiros (70).
World Number Three Lee Westwood, out of bounds with his drive as he followed bogeys on the 15th and 16th with a double bogey seven at the next, was in severe danger of missing the cut at that point.
But he got up and down from sand on the last for a birdie, a 75 and a one over total that he knew was likely to be just good enough to survive to the weekend.