Scotland’s Andrew McArthur is intent on shedding his ‘nearly man’ tag after joining Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello at the top of the leaderboard on day two of the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
Having finished 22nd and 27th in the end of term Challenge Tour Rankings in successive seasons, and therefore missed out on qualification for The European Tour by the narrowest of margins, McArthur set about banishing the disappointment of the past two years with a round of 65 to move to ten under par.
A 17th hole eagle at San Domenico Golf in Puglia, Italy, was the highlight of the day for the Scot, who currently sits 23rd in the Rankings.
He said: “I’ve done well up until now, but I’ve got to keep moving forward and keep my focus. I’ve not really paid too much attention to the boys around me in the Rankings are doing or what I might or might not need. I’ve just got to keep playing my shots, and cut out the costly errors. I’ve been playing well enough lately and getting up a head of steam, only for a bogey or two to set me back.
“It’s the first time in a long while I haven’t thrown any silly mistakes in. If I can keep that up for the next couple of days, I’d be hopeful of shooting fairly low again, because the conditions have been perfect and there are birdie opportunities out there. I’ll probably have to shoot in the 60s again on both days, but it’s definitely on.”
Cabrera Bello will provide a formidable opponent, having won this year’s Credit Suisse Challenge and recently registered a top ten finish at the Madrid Masters on The European Tour.
Despite being ranked 14th and therefore in pole position to claim a place at the top table next season, the Spaniard is determined to guard against complacency.
He said: “I’m in a good position to get my card, but I’m not thinking about it. I’m just thinking about the next two days. I played pretty steady today, and then when I did miss the green I trusted my short game to get me out of trouble. It’s something I worked on with my coach in Madrid, and it seems to be working.
“I enjoyed the week there and played well, which gave me a taste for more. I didn’t play particularly well the last time I was on The European Tour in 2007, but I feel like I’m a much better player now. Hopefully I will get the chance to prove it, but I’ve got to play well here first.”
After sparkling rounds of 66, the English duo of Richard Bland and Gary Clark are just one shot off the pace. At 26th in the Rankings Clark’s need is the greater of the two, and the Londoner greatly enhanced his prospects of finishing in the top 20 and so graduating to The European Tour by posting six birdies to move to nine under par.
Bland’s round was more eventful, featuring six birdies, an eagle and a double bogey. He currently occupies 17th spot in the Rankings, but with the top 15 gaining full playing privileges on The 2009 European Tour International Schedule a climb of just two places would provide the 35 year old with a huge fillip.
Bland said: “Obviously I need to keep playing well, because I want to be in control of my own fate – I don’t want to have to rely on other people. I couldn’t tell you what the guys in and around me in the Rankings are doing. It’s tough not to think about it, but I’ve handled it pretty well so far. My sole focus is how many shots I am off the lead – if I’m still only one off come Saturday, I’ll be pretty pleased.
“It’d be even better to win here, because I’ve put myself in position a couple of times this season, but haven’t finished the job off. It would round off the season very nicely, but I can’t lose sight of the main aim – to get my card back for next year.
“I’ve made a good start – I just got an unlucky bounce on the fifth hole which cost me a double bogey. I also missed a short par putt on the ninth hole, but other than those two I didn’t come close to dropping any shots. And it was a similar story yesterday, so I’ve played very well.”
Clark also professed himself pleased with a round which keeps him in contention to join his friend and compatriot Bland in The Race to Dubai, though in all likeliness he would need to finish in the top three this week.
He said: “I just did what I needed to do – to stay in the hunt. I haven’t worked out all the various permutations, but if I win this week I should be guaranteed my card. Having to win the tournament when I’m only six places outside the qualification places is pretty hard to swallow, but it’s a very tough life out here. I’ve just got to make as many birdies as I can to make sure I’m there or thereabouts come Saturday.”
Clark and Bland are tied in third with Brazilian Alexandre Rocha, who came into the tournament in fine fettle having shot a round of 59 at a Pro-Am tournament in Portugal last week.
He said: “My round today was unlike any other, because all my birdies came early – I just parred in from the 13th hole. I made chances, but just didn’t take them. My consistency was good though – my only poor shot was my approach to the tenth which I pulled, but then I went and chipped in anyway.
“So you win some, you lose some. If I can keep it up, I’ll be OK. I’ve sometimes put myself under too much pressure in the past, but I’m learning to cope with it now. Tomorrow’s just another day – I’ll only start thinking about next season once this one is over.”
|T2||MORGAN, John E||ENG||18||-16|