Despite a three putt for bogey on the final hole, Scotland’s Steven O’Hara is tied at the top on ten under par with England’s David Horsey at the midway stage of the Kazakhstan Open.
A burst of birdies on the front nine – his back nine – moved the Scot into a promising position to land his maiden Challenge Tour title, and with it secure a return to The European Tour.
With a prize fund of €430,000 up for grabs, O’Hara – currently ranked 14th – knows the next two days at Nurtau Golf Club in Almaty, Kazakhstan, could make or break his season.
The Scot, who added a 68 to his opening round of 66, said: “I feel gutted about that bogey on the last, but I’m sure it won’t last long, because I played pretty well again today. I’ve only made three bogeys over the two rounds, and it’s felt fairly easy. I found the fairways with most of my drives today and then managed to hit it pretty close with most of my approach shots, but just didn’t hole many putts.
“But I’m in a great position, and hopefully if I can hole a few more putts over the next two days, I’ll be in with a great chance. It’s a big weekend for me, so I’m really looking forward to it. I did well in St Omer, so I seem to get a bit of extra motivation and play my best golf in the bigger tournaments. All I can do is try my best at the weekend, and see where it takes me.”
O’Hara will face a formidable foe in Horsey, twice a winner on this season’s Challenge Tour and currently second in the Rankings. Seven birdies for a ten under par aggregate total of 134 considerably enhanced Horsey’s prospects of taking his haul of titles to three.
He said: “I played really solidly all day – if my putter had been working, I might’ve even shot three or four lower. I three putted the fourth hole and then missed a two foot putt on the sixth, so it was a frustrating start, but I played really well on the back nine. I came into the tournament in decent form with my runner-up finish in China – hopefully I can go one better this week.
“I want to win as many tournaments as I can – that’s why I play the game. I’d love to get the Number One spot at the end of the season and play in the HSBC Champions. It’s a big tournament, and if you play well there you can get your season off to a great start. Even a top 20 finish gets you about €40,000, which puts you on the front foot straight away. After that I’d probably play in Hong Kong, then go across to Australia and South Africa. But if I were to win one of them, maybe I’d give myself a month off over Christmas!”
Italian Alessandro Tadini is currently in third place on nine under par after a round of 66. Belgium’s Nicolas Vanhootegem is one shot further back on eight under par after a round of 69 which included five birdies.
Vanhootegem said: “I’m driving the ball well at the moment, so I’m hitting most of the fairways. And my short game’s in good shape as well, so that’s the key to a low score. I’ve just got to keep my concentration over the next two days, because it’s the biggest tournament of the year and there’s so much at stake. If you have a big week here, you’ve got a great chance of getting your card for The European Tour.
“I’ve just missed out in the last two years, finishing 22nd and then 21st in the Rankings. I think that had an effect on me, because I started this season slowly. But the biggest problem has been my putting – at the Dubliner Challenger two weeks ago, I broke 30 putts for the first time all year, which is why I finished fourth. Finally I’ve also found the right driver, so if you’re hitting it well off the tee and making the putts you’ve got a chance.”