Friday, 19 March 2010
Left-hander Stuart Little rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green at Golf du Medoc to edge a shot clear at the halfway mark of the Challenge Tour Grand Final in Bordeaux.

It gave him a second round 66 and left Little on seven under par 135, one clear of Didier de Vooght from Belgium, who went round in 65, and Sweden's Mattias Nilsson, who returned 67.

Little covered both nines in 33 with six birdies and one three-putt bogey and goes into round three leading a Challenge Tour event for the first time since winning the Rolex Trophy in Geneva last August.

"I played better today and just had to make two up-and-downs from bunkers, which I did," he said. "Two rounds have gone and there are two to go so a lot can happen over the next couple of days. I'm not counting chickens."

Little went into the final event of the season in 16th place on the Order of Merit and with the top 15 ranked players earning cards come Sunday night, the 34 year old Englishman has every chance of returning to the European Tour he left six years ago.

De Vooght had eight birdies in his best-of-the-day 65 after blooding a new putter. I bought it in the pro shop this morning,” he said. “It is a Cleveland and as I’m a Cleveland player you could say it’s a waste of money. But it worked well and I only had one three-putt.”

The 28 year old knows clearly what he has to do to gain a card. “I’ve got to win the tournament,” he said. But if he can maintain this form, which saw him complete a back nine of 31 by finishing 2-3, he has every chance.

It’s been quite a week for Nilsson. His luggage has been lost somewhere between Stockholm and Bordeaux and he has made several shopping trips to buy clothes. Nevertheless, he has put that behind him and played solid golf for his 67, which he described as: “nothing special.”

“I need to finish first or second to get my card,” he added.

Another poised for a comeback is England's Iain Pyman, who signed for a seven-birdie 65 despite suffering from a heavy cold. He is joint fourth on 137 along with four other English players and the leading Frenchman, Marc Pendaries.

Pyman, who graduated from the Challenge Tour in 1999 only to lose his card a year ago, needs a top three finish to climb into the top 15. "I want to win," he said, "but if I finish in the top three it doesn't matter what the rest do.

"I didn't hit many practise balls this morning before going out and I couldn't have shot any worse. I'm very pleased with 65 because I needed it."

After going out in 31 with five birdies, Pyman came home in 34 and still missed chances on the final three greens.

Grant Hamerton, ranked 15th, also made ground with 66 to join Pyman on five under par 137. He has turned his game around after being four over for the front nine of round one and is nine under for the other 27 holes.

"I haven't been happy with my game for the last few weeks but my back nine of 32 yesterday kick-started it for me," he said. "I don't know why things have changed but I've started to feel more confident about my game. Now I'm standing over the ball and know where it's going. I'm also driving the ball well and that always gives you a chance."

Spain-based Miles Tunnicliff, another seeking a return to the European Tour, and fellow Englishmen Andrew Marshall and Richard Bland, all shot 68 to extend the group in equal fourth place, while Pendaries made his score of 68 by going out in 32 with three birdies.

The race for the No.1 spot on the Challenge Tour rankings is still wide open. Top-placed Mark Foster and his closest rival, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, are side-by-side in equal 12th spot on 139, three under par, after rounds of 70 and 68 respectively.

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Tournament Leaderboard

PosPlayer NameNatHolePar
1BLAND, RichardENG18-18
2GOLDING, PhilipENG18-13
T3CLARK, GaryENG18-12
T3MARSHALL, AndrewENG18-12
T5ROESTOFF, AshleyRSA18-10
T5DE VOOGHT, DidierBEL18-10
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