Friday, 24 May 2002
England's Lee James and Fredrik Widmark from Sweden maintained their positions at the top of the leaderboard at the halfway mark of the Izki Challenge de
España in Spain. Both carded second round 70s for 137, nine under par, to go two clear of the field.

James, who won the opening tournament of the year in Kenya, had five birdies in his 70 but stressed that he is not putting well. "I had 31 putts today and 30 yesterday," he said. "I wanted to finish on ten under to have the lead and would have done if I hadn't missed from ten feet at the last.

"I've only missed three greens in 36 holes and they've cost me bogeys each time, but I'm happy with my position and I'll stick with the same game plan tomorrow."

Widmark took his birdie haul to 16 in 36 holes and would have forged ahead but for some "elementary errors". Despite twice stringing together three birdies in a row, he also produced four bogeys to stay in touch with the pursuing pack.

"I had seven birdies today but also too many bogeys," he admitted. "I was good from the tee and with my putting, but my iron play was only so-so. I allowed a few stupid mistakes to creep in and they cost me."

Starting the day as joint leader on six under, the Swede immediately dropped a shot with three putts at the first. But three successive birdies from the second got him to eight under and in the clear.

After reaching the turn in 34, he slipped again at the par four 10th, leaving his 50 metre approach short of the green and having to chip and two-putt for bogey.

He followed a further birdie at the long 12th with two more bogeys, missing the green at the 13th and failing to get up-and-down, and firing his tee shot at the 192-yard 14th into the trees.

However, his helter-skelter round continued as he reeled off three successive birdies from the 15th to be home in 36.

Six players share third place on 139 with the best round being produced by Ireland's Gary Murphy. He had five birdies in a 69 and said: "Two dropped shots in two rounds is a bit of a record for me, but I'm happy to be just two strokes off the lead and I'll try to shoot seven under over the weekend and see what happens."

A trio of Frenchmen are also on 139, Julien Van Hauwe, Bertrand Cornut and Dominique Nouailhac. Van Hauwe, out from the 10th tee, only had two pars in a see-saw front nine of 36, but came home in 35 for 71 with three birdies including a two at the short ninth.

"I missed a lot of good chances so I'm not happy," he said. "The problem was I hit my iron shots too long."

Cornut also went round in 71 with four birdies and admitted: "It was difficult to keep the ball on the greens with the long irons because the putting surfaces were much harder today. But I'm happy to be in red figures."

Nouailhac had three birdies in his 71 but said his recovery shots were good. "I missed three greens but go up-and-down each time to save par," he said. "It was a tough day but I stayed patient and it paid off."

Italy's Federico Bisazza, joint leader overnight with James and Widmark, slipped back with 72, while Nicolas Colsaerts from Belgium is the other player on seven under after a 71 that contained four birdies.

"I stupidly missed too many greens today," he admitted. "But it wasn't easy especially putting against the wind. It was not easy to find the right pace and I left a few short."

One man who didn't leave his shot short was Finland's Janne Martikainen, who holed-in-one at the 223-yard ninth with a three iron. It is his first ace as a
professional although he achieved one as an amateur in the European Amateur Championship in Switzerland five years ago.

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