Friday, 02 July 2004
Johan Axgren maintained his one shot advantage at the European Challenge Tour’s Volvo Finnish Open with a second round 69 – after which the Swede admitted that he is relishing his return to life on the Challenge Tour after a three year absence.

The 29 year old is on eight under par 134, and leads England’s Phillip Archer and Finnish Amateur Roope Kakko by one stroke going into the final 36 holes.

Axgren repeated his run of four consecutive front nine birdies during the second round after doing the same on Thursday afternoon during the opening 18 holes of the tournament.

“I played ok today, not as well as I did yesterday, and to be honest I am little bit surprised to be leading,” said Axgren. “I am not going to complain about it, but I didn’t think that a 69 in the second round would be good enough to hold onto the lead.

“I stared at the tenth tee today and things didn’t really start to happen for me until I got onto the front nine, where I made four birdies in row – as I had done there yesterday. I really like those holes!”

Axgren was a Challenge Tour winner in 1996 when he won the Vasterås Open, and he would love to repeat that victory in Finland to cap his return to full time work as a Touring Professional.

“I’m looking upon this as something of a comeback for me,” he said. “I have been away from Touring for more or less three years, and it is nice to be back among some familiar faces because I missed being at tournaments and the life in general.

“I took the decision to come back after playing in some events at home in Sweden last year. I had been teaching at my club in Sweden for the past three years and decided to go to the European Tour Qualifying School last November.

“When I got through the first two stages to the Finals, it kind of confirmed to me that I was still good enough to compete at a high level so I had to really come out and have another go at getting onto The European Tour.”

Archer, meanwhile, got himself into joint second place with rounds of 67-68 – giving him a seven under total to tie alongside Finnish Amateur Roope Kakko, who has excelled in the professional environment to post rounds of 68-67.

Australian Andrew Buckle (67-69), England’s Andrew Butterfield (69-67) and Sweden’s Henrik Nystrom (69-67) share fourth place on six under par, with current Challenge Tour Number One Alessandro Tadini a further stroke back alongside England’s Graeme Storm on five under par 137.

Welshman Mark Pilkington fired the lowest second round in the field – a six under par 65 taking the 26 year old from three over to three under par in the space of 18 holes, and allowing him to join 63 other players who survived the weekend cut of one over par.

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