Sheffield star in contention

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Big things were expected of Sheffield’s Danny Willett and Bristol’s Chris Wood when they turned professional four years ago - but this weekend sees them both in Cologne still striving for their first European Tour win.

Willett was a team-mate of Rory McIlroy at the 2007 Walker Cup against an American side that included new US Open champion Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.

He also followed McIlroy and Fowler at the top of the world amateur rankings for a while.

Wood was a star of the 2008 Open at Birkdale, finishing a brilliant fifth before making the switch into the paid ranks and leading in his first event before falling ill.

The 24-year-old - he is a month younger than Willett - then returned to the Open at Turnberry the following summer and did even better, missing out on the play-off between Tom Watson and Stewart Cink by one shot just like Lee Westwood.

Three runners-up finishes have followed, most recently in Sicily in April, while Willett was second to Martin Kaymer at the 2010 Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

They resumed the BMW International Open at Gut Larchenhof on nine under par, joint second with Ireland’s Paul McGinley two strokes behind Swede Joel Sjoholm.

“It’s always nice to put yourself in contention - nothing beats it really,” said Wood, whose tournament began with a three-kilometre walk, jog and run across fields to make sure he made his tee-off time after being stuck in traffic.

He and Willett both opened with 65s, as did McGinley, and followed up with 70s in yesterday’s much windier conditions.

However, Chilean-born Sjoholm, adopted by a Swedish couple when only three months old, grabbed two eagles in a superb 66 to reach 11 under.

Sergio Garcia and 54-year-old Bernhard Langer both had 67s to be five and six behind respectively, Langer’s performance going some way to make up for the disappointment of local favourite Kaymer missing the cut.