Alberto Binaghi dug deep into his wealth of experience to card a course record seven under par 65 and lead at the halfway mark of the Talma Finnish Challenge. The 36 year old Italian defied the blustery conditions and showed how the Talma course should be played to open a two-stroke advantage over four players, Swedes Mårten Olander and Per Larsson, Nicolas Joakimides from France and England’s Gary Clark.
On a day that called for patience and sound course management in the wind, Binaghi displayed both to good effect as he carded eight birdies and just one bogey. “I read the wind pretty well,” he said as he led a Challenge Tour event for the first time in a year.
“This is a tricky course and with the wind gusting as it was there is a fine line between shooting low and dropping a lot of shots around here. If you start thinking negative you can be in trouble.”
Trouble wasn’t something that featured with the former European Tour regular. Out from the 10th tee, he birdied his opening two holes, only to drop his only shot at the short but tricky 190m 12th. But that was his only blemish as he rattled in three more birdies to reach the turn in 32, then returned in 33 with three more birdies.
At 52nd on the Challenge Tour Rankings, Binaghi needs some strong finishes if he is to command a place in the top 15 at the end of the year. “I have had a lot of finishes between 10th and 20th and that doesn’t move you up,” he added. “I need to finish in the top two in some tournaments. I’ve given myself a chance here and now I need to take it.”
Olander, an early starter, built on his opening 68 by getting to eight under after 15 holes and opening a three-stroke lead. But bogey-fives at the final three holes, his first dropped shots of the week, saw him sign for 71 and 139.
He missed from four feet at the 16th after being in sand, then failed to get up-and-down at 17 after missing the green with a sand wedge. To compound his misery, he drove into water the last.
“Those three late bogeys leave a nasty taste,” he said. “I didn’t have a bogey for 33 holes then they all come at once. But at least I’m playing solid golf.”
Also on 139 is Joakimides, who was the epitome of sound scoring. He reeled off 17 pars and just one birdie with a 12-foot putt at the 11th for 71.
“This is only my fourth Challenge Tour event of the year and I haven’t made a cut yet,” he said. “I haven’t been playing well and I haven’t had any money. You need to play well because playing on the Challenge Tour costs a lot. But I am playing well at the moment and I have some money so I’m happy to play the next few tournaments.”
He is certain to make the cut this week, as is Clark, who returned a see-saw 69 to join the others on 139.
The Londoner bogeyed his opening hole and was going nowhere with his round until he fired a five wood to eight feet at the long 8th and rolled the putt in for eagle. “That got me going,” he said.
Four birdies followed but sandwiched between was an ugly double-bogey five at the short 15th where he missed from four feet after hitting his tee shot into a bunker and failing to find the putting surface with the recovery. “I played fine after a bad start but that double killed me,” he added.
The group were joined on 139 by Larsson. Out in one of the last matches he carded a 68, a magnificent effort in the conditions.
Another Englishman, Richard Bland, signed for 67 and 140, but was disappointed to drop his only shot with a bogey-five at the 18th. “I didn’t play a lot different from yesterday but I took a few chances today,” he said. Bland, who has finished in the top 10 in the previous two tournaments, needs a high finish to improve his ranking of 44th.
Also on 140 are two more Englishmen, Stuart Little with 70 and Ben Mason after a 72, and the leading Finn, Pasi Purhonen, who is on his home course at Talma. He returned 71, but the big disappointment for local fans was the demise of Mikko Ilonen, who returned 76 for 149 to miss the cut.
The young Finn had three birdies and five bogeys and rounded off a disappointing day with a double-bogey six at the last. But three amateurs survived the halfway cut that came at one over par 145.
They were Thomas Sundstrom who carded a 73 for level par 144, Thomas Tuovinen with 76 for 145,and Toni Karjalainen, who also finished on 145 after a 75.