Friday, 11 July 2003
Mark Mouland consolidated his opening 65 at Open des Volcans Challenge de France with a second round 70 but found his putting pendulum had swung from positive to negative as he missed chance after chance on the greens at Golf des Volcans in the South of France.

And, such is the nature of the European Challenge Tour, the 42 year old is no longer on his own at the top of the leaderboard, as Swedes Oskar Bergman, Peter Gustafsson and Spaniard Ivo Giner all joined the Welshman on 135, seven under par.

Mouland, who had credited his impressive first round score to an improvement in his putting stroke, couldn’t hide his disappointed as soon as he stepped off the course.

He said: “I’m just so annoyed at myself at the moment – every problem I have is down to my putting.

“I started on the back nine and had three putts on the 11th from a really short distance. That just set me off on the wrong foot. I can recall four other really short putts that I missed and it’s just so frustrating because apart from that I’ve been playing well for weeks.”

Both Giner and Gustafsson shot second round 67s over the par 71 Golf des Volcans course, along with Italian Stefano Reale – who eagled the par four first – and Welshman Craig Williams, who is sandwiched on his own between the four leaders and the four players tied for sixth on five under, 139.

Gustafsson, unlike Mouland, was putting well throughout his round, and the 26 year old admitted that he is always inspired when he visits the Open des Volcans.

“My putting is very confident now,” said the Swede. “In the past I would always be nervous about putts of between three and five feet but now I feel like the ball will always drop in the hole.

“I also love it here in the Auvergne. I shot 65 round this course in 2000 and I always feel good about coming to this area of France. The weather is fantastic and the area is so beautiful that it is a pleasure to play here - it always reminds me a little bit of my home course in Sweden.

“I have not won on the Challenge Tour yet but I would love to get my first victory here.”

While four players raised their games to shoot 67, the round of the day was that of amateur Ralph de Sousa.

The Swiss player had six birdies, three bogeys and one eagle on his way to a 66 – and guaranteed himself another two days of vital experience by making the cut of level par.

His fellow amateur, Frenchman Jean Baptiste Gonnet, also made it to the weekend with a total of 143, and those two players will join 62 professionals to battle it out for the €20,830 first prize.

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