By Richard Williamson
MATTHEW Jordan was chasing birdies again – but it was the two-legged variety that threatened to ruffle his feathers.
The rookie professional from Wirral found himself confronted by an unexpected intruder on his second hole at the Betfred British Masters yesterday.
His efforts to chase the wandering pheasant away were nowhere near as successful as his birdie hunt on Thursday when he potted nine of them on the way to setting a new course record at Hillside and emerging as the surprise overnight leader.
The 23-year-old had showed no signs of being unnerved at being top of the pecking order when he started his second round at the 10th, despite a 75 minute delay due to heavy rain and the threat of a thunderstorm. The question was would lightning strike twice?
It looked like the answer was yes as the Royal Liverpool player, who lives just two minutes away from the famous links in Hoylake, plonked his tee shot on the par three’s green and promptly rolled in his 18 foot putt for birdie to reach 10 under.
But it appeared the game bird’s intervention had knocked Jordan off his own game with a rare mistake on 11, leaking his tee shot into the gorse. A penalty drop, a wayward recovery, a loose up and down and a final putt that lipped out led to a double bogey seven and the first wobble of his week.
A chance to get one back on 13 also spun out and when Jordan again drifted offline from the tee and found himself high in the dunes another dropped shot followed at 14 to suggest a tough day ahead for a young player who only joined the pro ranks last year.
But as a Liverpool fan, he knows only too well that while the game is in play anything is possible.
A nice approach at the next led to a fightback birdie with a superb tee shot on the 218 yard par three 16th bagging another. Jordan then took advantage of the par 5 17th to claim a hat-trick and get his week back on track.
When he had unfurled his opening tee shot on Thursday, it was only family, friends and the hardy who looked on.
A tugged drive into the left-hand rough and a grimace of disappointment were no indication of what was to follow. Roll on 24 hours and Jordan was greeted by a ring of spectators huddling the dunes that embrace the 10th green.
By then he had been joined on an increasingly congested leaderboard with some of the European Tour’s leading names in Wallace, Fisher and Westwood – along with Sweden’s Niklas Lemke , whose run of eight consecutive birdies was one off equalling the Tour record – all jostling at the top.
But Jordan is proving to be made of resilient stuff and while his game was not flowing as freely as the previous day, he dug deep and scrapped his way to a level par round to leave himself in contention for a maiden Tour victory.
“I made one or two silly mistakes out there,” was Jordan’s honest post-round assessment, “but I am still in with a chance. After the bogey at 14 I could have found myself going backwards, but 15 got me going again and I played a good shot in at 16.
“If I played like I did on Thursday every day I would be world number one – by some distance – but sport is not like that and I am pleased that I kept myself in contention.
“We get pheasants on my home course, so it was a bit of a laugh. It was a bit of a relief after the long wait to get playing today.”
For tournament host Tommy Fleetwood it was a case of ifs and buts as his round never really ignited. Too many birdie putts refused to drop but he still managed to sign for a three under round.
That means he has to mount a weekend charge if he is to land a home victory – but he knows he will be backed all the way by the crowds.
“The reception has been fantastic – I think I was clapped onto every green for the first eight holes!” he said. “I am hoping we can put on a memorable event for everyone – and I would love to see the British Masters come back.
“In terms of birdie chances it was pretty frustrating, but on the positive I holed some good putts to save par. I started the day five back and I am still five back, so it is a case of seeing what I can do now. It should be a good weekend for the spectators.”
And as someone who wants to see the tournament thrive in its Merseyside home, there was plenty of consolation in the news that today’s third round – dubbed Moving Day – is a 18,000 sell-out. Plus a few pheasants…