Super Swede Steven Jeppesen gave himself the ideal opportunity to shed his bridesmaid’s tag on the European Challenge Tour when he stormed into a two shot lead at the halfway stage of the Fred Olsen Challenge de España.
The 25 year old has finished runner-up in Challenge Tour events on four occasions in the past but proved he possesses the tools to complete the job with a stunning eight under par second round 63 for a 14 under par total of 128 at Tecina Golf in the Canary Islands.
The score matched the 63 of Sion Bebb’s earlier in the day, the Welshman finishing the day in third place on 11 under par 131, one behind Spain’s Jesus Maria Arruti who, late in the afternoon, posted his second consecutive 65 to take second place going into the weekend’s action on 12 under par 130.
Highlight of the round for Jeppesen came at the par five third hole where a fine drive and five wood approach helped him find the centre of the putting surface from where he rolled in a 15 foot putt for an eagle three. He was not too shabby elsewhere either with six birdies in total and not a single shot dropped to par all day.
“All parts of my game were good today, I couldn’t really find a fault,” said Jeppesen who currently lies 79th on the Challenge Tour Rankings. “I hit more fairways which made the second shots either and I putted well too – I gave myself lots of chances and thankfully I took a few of them.
“I am a bit far down the Rankings but I have been working hard with my coach on a few aspects of my swing recently and hopefully they are beginning to pay off. I am enjoying this course a lot and we will see what happens over the weekend.”
Second placed Arruti continued to put his local knowledge of the Gomera Island course to good use with another solid round. The 40 year old finished in the top ten of a Spanish National Tour event at the course last year and showed he had forgetten none of the venue’s nuances.
Indeed Arruti, a two time Challenge Tour winner, looked like he was going to threaten the lead when he reached 12 under par for the tournament through 12 holes of his second round. However a bogey four at the short 14th halted his progress before a birdie four at the 17th erased the error.
“I was trying hard to post a bogey free round so the lip-out for par on 14th hurt, but it was a good round apart from that,” he said. “My long game from tee to green was good and I’ll try and keep going the same way tomorrow and Sunday.”
Third placed Bebb, who like Jeppesen had an eagle and six birdies in his round, held the clubhouse lead for a long spell before being overtaken late in the day and continued his fine form of late, finishing in the top 15 in five of his last six events – three of which were top tens – to break into the top 20 on the Challenge Tour Rankings.
“I had no dropped shots today which was nice. It’s always good to have a bogey-free round,” he said. “The eagle at the seventh was the highlight today. I hit a driver and then a four iron to about 30 feet and holed the putt. I was just trying to get it close but it was nice to see it drop in. I putted well overall, and another highlight was my tee shot on the 11th when I hit a seven iron to within about a foot.”
Another Welshman, Stuart Manley, will go into the weekend in fourth place on nine under par 133 after his second round 65 while Spain’s Javier Colomo and Charles-Edouard Russo of France share fifth place on eight under par 134.