Challenge Tour ranking leader Henrik Stenson from Sweden and Scotland’s Andrew Raitt both carded seven-under-par 65s to move ahead at the halfway mark of the San Paolo Vita Open in Italy. They are a shot clear of another Swede, Eric Carlberg, and Carlos Rodiles from Spain.
Stenson, winner of two titles this year including the previous tournament, the Gula Sidorna Grand Prix in Sweden, is already assured of playing on the main Tour next year but is eager to finish top of the Ranking.
He is well on the way to his target especially as his closest rival, Ireland’s David Higgins, is five strokes back on 140 after a 71.
Raitt, 31, who has been in contention on several occasions on this year’s Challenge Tour, is currently 33rd on the rankings so a high finish at Margara would boost his chances of claiming one of the top 15 spots that earn automatic promotion to the tour next year.
One other player matched Stenson and Raitt’s 65. Raimo Sjoberg from Sweden also returned seven under to move up to joint 18th on 140.
The cut came at two-under-par 142 with 51 players surviving for the final two rounds. Among them were several players ranked just outside the top 15 including England’s Kenneth Ferrie and Graham Rankin from Scotland.
Ferrie, who has finished first and second in the previous two events to climb to 18th, survived on the limit after a 70 as did 16th-placed Rankin. The Welsh Duo of Garry Houston and Mark Pilkington, 20th and 21st, also made it, but England’s Simon Hurd (17th) and Alvaro Salto (19th) from Spain missed out as did Germany’s Tobias Dier (10th) and Marco Bernardini (12th) from Italy.
South Africa’s Trevor Immelman made a brilliant recovery from an opening 75 with a 66 to stay in the hunt on 141.
England Andrew Beal, who is on 140 after a 70, holed-in-one with a six iron at the 155m 12th hole. It was his first ace on the Challenge Tour.