Marco Ruiz of Paraguay moved into pole position at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, posting halfway total of nine under par 135 to lead Scotland’s Marc Warren by a single stroke as the battle for the 2005 European Challenge Tour Number One spot, and the 20 European Tour cards on offer, moves into the final 36 holes of the year.
For Ruiz, who is currently 15th on the Rankings, victory would ensure a place in the top ten and guarantee the 30 year old one of the best Tour cards available through the Challenge Tour.
Warren, meanwhile, has one objective this week: Win the Challenge Tour’s most important event of the season and he will be crowned Number One for the year. The Scot is in sixth place – €10,947 behind current Number One Fredrik Widmark of Sweden on the current Rankings, with €14,300 separating first and second prize this week.
One thing Widmark will not do is let Warren take his top spot without a fight, leaving the mouth watering prospect of the race for the Number One Spot going down to the last putt of the season at the inspirational San Domenico Golf Club on Italy’s south east coast.
Having both won two tournaments already this season, the potential shoot-out between Warren and Widmark is befitting of what has been a thrilling year on the Challenge Tour, and both players are relishing the prospect of finishing off their hugely successful seasons on the ultimate high.
Widmark, who carded a second round 68 to join England’s James Hepworth and his fellow countryman Michael Jonzon on seven under par at the halfway stage, was disappointed with his bogey-par-bogey finish to the second round, but won’t change his aggressive approach to the game.
“It was a disappointing finish with two bogeys in the last three holes because I had none yesterday and then none in the first 15 holes today,” said Widmark. “Just when I was thinking that I could go a whole tournament without dropping a shot two come along. It was a disappointing finish but I will go after it again tomorrow.
“The last time I was at the Grand Final I was the man to catch in 15th place and that was a lot tougher than being Number One as I am at the moment. If I don’t finish in top spot this week then it has still been a great season for me so I don’t have much to lose really, but I would love to win here because that would be three victories in a single season and you can’t argue with that.”
Another cool and composed display left the 24 year old Warren on target to leapfrog Widmark come Saturday evening. The Scotsman’s second round 69 moved him to eight under par 136, one stroke behind Ruiz of Paraguay with 36 holes to play.
“I was a bit disappointed with the fact that I didn’t take advantage on all of the par fives today because they were all down wind, but apart from that I played well,” said Warren.
“I’m right where I want to be, playing well and everything seems to be there so it’s just a matter of getting the job done. There were a lot of chances out there today and as I said the only disappointment was the par fives. If I had birdied them all I could have been leading but I am only one back which is nothing with two rounds to go around this course.
“I’m not really keeping an eye on Fredrik this week. It doesn’t matter what he does if I win. The only thing I have to worry about is playing well and winning. If I do that then that’s all that matters.”
Ruiz, meanwhile, was delighted to emerge as the leader at the end of the second round, leaving himself in the best position possible to complete his single minded objective for the week.
“It was a wonderful day for me,” said Ruiz. “My short game was excellent today, especially on this golf course which is very tough because the wind has totally changed direction. That makes things very difficult but I am very happy to be at the top of the leaderboard.
“This would be a great week for me to get my first win of the year, and that is what I have come here to do. I have not been thinking too much about what I have to do to get into the top ten, I am just focused on winning which will get me into the top ten. That is all I am focusing on.”