Gilliss Island

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Tom Gillis has fond memories of the Belgacom Open. Two years ago, the American was on the brink of losing his European Tour card when he birdied the 72nd hole in Knokke, Belgium. He finished that week tied for 39th, good enough to maintain his playing privileges by a mere $300.
 
Once again, Gillis is fighting to keep his card. With the top 115 players earning an automatic exemption on the 2001 European Tour, the 32-year-old Michigander stands 106th with three full-field events remaining.
 
This week, Gillis is back in Belgium. And the way things are going; he won't need an 11th-hour miracle. Friday, the American fired a 7-under-par 64 to take a one-shot lead over Padraig Harrington into the third round.
 
At 11-under, Gillis is one shot clear of the Irishman, and three strokes lower than Lee Westwood, Gary Evans, Marc Farry and Roger Wessels.
 
In each of his first two years overseas, Gillis found himself near the Mendoza Line by season's end. 2000 has been no different.
 
After 18 starts, Gillis is inside the top 115, but not by much. And after missing the cut in his last two starts, he could see his 2001 Tour card slipping away.
 
'I was leaking oil again,' said Gillis. 'I felt the same feelings, the same pressures as two years ago. Rather than wait for the Lancome I decided to go home. I was not right in my head. So I put my boat on the back of my truck and drove north to Michigan.
 
'Didn't know where I was going to go - just had to get away. Went to a place called garland Resort where a friend of mine is a pro. They have four golf courses and a bunch of lakes. I caught 11 pike in two days, fished every morning and practiced every afternoon. When I drove out on Saturday, I was thinking right again.'
 
With his head on straight, Gillis reeled off five birdies in six holes for a back-nine 29 on Friday.
 
Gillis is just one of many good storylines entering weekend play.
 
Three shots off the 36-hole lead, Westwood is in prime position to regain first place on the Order of Merit. The Englishman is just $82,000 behind Darren Clarke; and he's guaranteed to make up some ground before next week's German Masters.
 
While Westwood sits comfortably in a tie for third, Clarke is heading home.
 
Clarke shot rounds of 73-73 to miss the cut. But though he may not lead the money list come Sunday afternoon, missing the cut isn't all that bad. The Northern Irishman was able to fly home and care for his wife Heather, who is expecting their second child next week.
 
Another story is that of Roger Wessels. One week ago, the South African shot polar-rounds of 63-81 to fall from first-round leader to weekend spectator.
 
This week, Wessels fired a Friday 64 to move into a tie for third with 36 holes to play.
 
'It was a good week to have a recovery,' said Wessels. 'I kept the good bits from last Thursday and got rid of the bad bits from last Friday.'
 
Belgacom first-round leader Hennie Otto didn't experience a Wessels-like meltdown in the second round, but his 1-over-par 72 dropped the South African into a tie for 13th at 6-under-par.