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Wallace is aiming to emulate Molinari and rise to the summit

 

Looking up: Matt Wallace now focuses on the bigger picture
Looking up: Matt Wallace now focuses on the bigger picture

By Phil Casey

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 wildcard for the Ryder Cup in Paris, but a second round of 67 in the British Masters put the World No.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 No.1s 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 in getting two players to World No.1," 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.

"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 has 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 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 No.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 quitting after struggling in the pro ranks.

"Three years ago I decided 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. It feels like it's going in the right direction."

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