A late show from the in-form Rafael Cabrera Bello saw the Spaniard join Portugal’s Ricardo Santos at the top of the leaderboard on day two of the Ypsilon Golf Challenge by Alex Cejka.
With his country in a state of mourning – Cabrera Bello hails from the Canary Islands, the intended destination of the plane which crash landed at Madrid Airport on Wednesday – the Spaniard was in understandably sombre mood at Ypsilon Golf Resort in Liberec, Czech Republic.
But he set about his task in typically professional fashion, plundering seven birdies in a round of 64 to join Santos on 11 under par.
Cabrera Bello said: “I just played really well today – my only complaint is that I wasn’t able to birdie any of the par fives. Other than that, it felt quite easy today. It helps that the course is in fantastic condition. Sometimes when you come to countries where golf isn’t very popular, you worry that the course might not be in great shape. But that’s definitely not the case here.”
Cabrera Bello’s round of 64 was matched by Santos, who put the pain of seven consecutive missed cuts firmly behind him.
Santos, who has two fourth place finishes to his name this season, has not earned a penny on the Challenge Tour since the Reale Challenge de España in June. But seven birdies moved him to 11 under par, and put the 26 year old in with a great chance of claiming the lion’s share of the €180,000 on offer.
Santos said: “The big difference today was my putting. I hadn’t actually been playing that badly from tee to green when I was missing all those cuts – the puts just weren’t dropping for me. Obviously I lost some confidence, but I won a Europro tournament in Portugal three weeks ago, and that got my season going again. Hopefully I can keep it going tomorrow and build up more confidence. But before that I have to take my girlfriend out to dinner, because it’s her birthday today and she did a good job as my caddy!”
One shot off the pace in a tie for third on ten under par are England’s Richard Bland, who shot a 65, Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli and Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin.
Maybin said: “I’m playing pretty tidy golf, and it’s always pleasing to keep the bogeys off the card. I’ve been playing well for a while now – maybe last week in Geneva I just got a bit too aggressive, which cost me any chance of victory. Obviously it’d be nice to get that first win on the board, but it’s not something I’m too bothered about.
“I just need one big week at this stage of this season and I’ll be almost there. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing, because I’m putting and chipping well. It’s nice when it all comes together, but it can just as easily go the other way.”
Earlier in the day, Finland’s Jaakko Makitalo and Germany’s Kariem Baraka both set new course records with flawless rounds of 63.
Makitalo said: “The main difference was my iron play today. The longest putt I had to make today was from about six or seven metres – all the other birdie putts were from inside ten feet. The greens are very nice, which helps. It’s a great course – I’ve certainly enjoyed playing on it so far. I only got into the tournament on the back of my top ten finish at the Vodafone Challenge last week.
“So my form has been pretty solid. It didn’t look that way when I was in 88th place after a round of 71, but I didn’t get depressed about it because I knew there were a lot of birdie opportunities out there. I thought I’d have to shoot a 67 just to make the cut, so a 63 was a very nice surprise.”