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Friday, 19 March 2010
Raimo Sjoberg, the quiet man of the Challenge Tour, defied almost continual rain and a tricky course to post a 67 that earns him the halfway lead in the Formby Hall Challenge near Liverpool.

The 31 year old Swede goes into round three on 136, eight under par, and a stroke ahead of England’s Stuart Davis, and two shots clear of two more Englishmen, David Dixon and David Griffiths.

Sjoberg, who lets his clubs do the talking, was brandishing a new set of Ping irons and they steered him to six birdies and just one dropped shot.

“I only collected them on Monday and they are almost an inch longer than m y old ones,” he said. “It helps to take the pressure off my back. They certainly worked well today. I missed only one fairway and just two greens.”

But he also went round in the worst of a poor day, plagued by frequent downpours, but where the course stood up to the deluge superbly. “I don’t like playing in the rain and we had it for about 15 holes,” he added. “But it doesn’t upset me and I am looking forward to the next two days.”

Davis admits that he hasn't enjoyed the best of fortune on this year's Europro Tour. And he wasn't expecting anything different when he arrived on Merseyside this week.

So he is as surprised as anyone to be one off the lead after a 67 which leaves him on 137, seven under par.

"I'm really pleased because I came here expecting little," said the 29 year old from Derby. "I was hitting it sideways when I arrived and I lost seven balls in my practise round. But everything seemed to click when I got on the tee.

"I've only had one bogey in two days. I've also putted well and I've felt I could hole everything in the past two days. I've been more consistent this year although I've not had a spectacular week."

Davis ran in five birdies and didn't drop a shot, twice holing from around 20 feet to save par.

Dixon, from Somerset, a Challenge Tour regular, shot 66, going out in 33 from the tenth with four birdies and added three more in a homeward 33. "I played well yesterday when I shot 72 but I got a bit ahead of myself," he said. "I've been in this position a few times this year and not finished as I should, so it's about time I did something about it."

Griffiths, 22, marked his Challenge Tour debut with 67, going out in 33 with four birdies from the tenth tee and added two more immediately after the turn. But two successive bogeys dropped him back, while he rounded off a fine round by holing from 30 feet at the 390-yard eighth to be home in 34.

"I putted really well," he said. "I just wish I could have hit it a bit closer to take some of the strain off the putter. But I've been playing well this year and I'm looking forward to the weekend."

Two more players returned 66, Spain’s Carlos Quevado and Paddy Gribben from Ireland. It leaves Quevedo on 139 and Gribben two strokes further back.

The shot of the day belonged to Scott Kammann, who holed-in-one with a six iron at the 189-yard 13th hole, but unluckily it didn’t earn him a prize. It was his second ‘ace’ in three weeks after he performed a similar feat during the second round of the North West of Ireland Open at Ballyliffin.

It was also the fifth time he has holed-in-one in competition, the other three coming in his native America. “None of them have earned me a car or such like,” he said. “I think the most I’ve won is about 500 bucks.”

The cut came at one over par 145 with 60 players surviving for the final two rounds including one amateur, England international Gary Lockerbie on the mark after a 72.

Two Ryder Cup men also made it, Steven Richardson, who shot 69 for 144, and Paul Broadhurst, who eagled the last with a 45 foot putt to get in on the limit. But defending champion Sam Little finished on 154 after a 78.

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Tournament Leaderboard

PosPlayer NameNatHolePar
1BLACKEY, MatthewENG18-13
T2DIXON, DavidENG18-12
T2MCGRANE, DamienIRL18-12
4VON POST, HampusSWE18-11
T5GRIFFITHS, DavidENG18-9
T5SJÖBERG, RaimoSWE18-9
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