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Rising star Wallace looking to emulate Molinari success

The 29-year-old is leading the way at the British Masters as he chases his fifth title in two years.

England’s Matt Wallace set the early target on day two of the British Masters (Steven Paston/PA)
England’s Matt Wallace set the early target on day two of the British Masters (Steven Paston/PA)

Matt Wallace is preaching patience and passing on post-round pizza as he looks to follow in the footsteps of Open champion Francesco Molinari.

Less than four years ago Wallace was finishing fifth in a tournament on the
Alps Tour to move up to 1,672nd in the world rankings, but the following year won six times on the same circuit and then claimed his first European Tour title in Portugal in 2017.

Three more wins in 2018 meant Wallace was unfortunate to miss out on a wild
card for the Ryder Cup in Paris, but a second round of 67 in the British Masters put the world number 36 in pole position for a fifth win in two years and the first prize of £500,000.

Wallace, who has yet to drop a shot this week, is determined to continue his meteoric rise and has recently started working with fitness expert Dr Steve McGregor, who counts former world number ones Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood among his previous clients.

“I’ve got a brilliant team with the inclusion of Steve now, his history speaks for itself getting two players to world number one,” the 29-year-old Londoner said. “Two great players obviously, but if he can do some of that magic to me hopefully we can get to that position or close enough.

“He’s taken a different role to what he did with Westy and Rory, he’s assessing what I’m doing during the week with my physio Harry and we’ll come up with a plan to get better and fitter and stronger and mentally stronger.

“For example, at Hilton Head recently after a first round of four over I’d go back and I’d be so annoyed and all I’d want to do is have a pizza and go to bed.

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Matt Wallace set the clubhouse target on day two of the British Masters (Peter Byrne/PA)

“Whereas if you look at the bigger picture it’s not about that four over, it’s about the long-term where you go back, don’t worry about it, get some good food, good rest so you’re better off the next day and that gives you the best chance of competing the next day.

“If it doesn’t happen, at least the day after that you’re going to be better and fitter to go and practice.

“If I look at the bigger picture of the next three or four years it’s very similar to Francesco (Molinari). Three years ago he wasn’t where he is now and I want to be doing what he’s doing, Ryder Cups and majors and competing at every single event pretty much.”

At 12 under par Wallace enjoyed a one-shot lead over fellow Englishman Ross Fisher and Sweden’s Niklas Lemke, who came close to equalling a world record during a 64 punctuated by a 72-minute delay due to the threat of lightning.

Lemke carded eight birdies in a row during from the 13th to the second to fall just one short of the mark set by former Open champion Mark Calcavecchia in 2009 and equalled by Australia’s James Nitties in February’s Vic Open.

The world number 371, who had missed the cut in six of his last seven events, had the third-best stroke average in the history of Arizona State University behind Paul Casey and Phil Mickelson, but came close to giving up the game after struggling in the professional ranks.

“Three years ago I decided I was going to give it two years and if I felt I was getting better I would continue,” said the 35-year-old, who graduated from the European Tour qualifying school last year at the 10th attempt. “I made a two-year plan and committed to it.

“There are still some ups and downs but it feels like it’s going in the right direction.”

PA

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