Benjamin Hebert took a step closer to completing a hat-trick of Challenge Tour victories this season with a superb seven under par 65 in the second round of the Rolex Trophy at Geneva Golf Club.
The Frenchman, who had back-to-back triumphs in the Credit Suisse Challenge and the English Challenge earlier in the summer, is tied for the lead at 13 under par with young Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, one shot ahead of Austrian Florian Praegant and four in front of Klass Eriksson of Sweden, Italy’s Andrea Pavan and Sam Hutsby of England.
“I saw Florian and Tommy had made great scores this morning and I was under pressure, so I’m glad to have made a few birdies to join them up there at the top,” said Hebert.
“Yesterday I had nine birdies (in a 66) so I knew there are chances out there. The key was my putter today, it was very good. It’s a short course but if you get the right line with your driver you will have plenty of opportunities. I love this type of course.
“I hope to keep up my form with the putter and shoot a low score. Winning three times is on my mind, yes. We will see if I can do it this week but this is a good start.”
All four rounds of the €218,000 Rolex Trophy are played in a pro-am format, with round one comprising two professionals and two Swiss junior players in each group, and the subsequent three rounds consisting of one professional and three amateurs per team.
“I’m really enjoying playing with the amateurs,” Hebert added. “Today I played with the boss of Rolex and tomorrow I’m with Henri Laconte, a former French tennis player, so it’s good fun.”
Fleetwood has a golden chance to fulfil the potential he showed when he came second in last year’s English Challenge while still an amateur. He too attributed his fine scores to excellent form on the greens.
“I’m putting really well,” said the 20 year old, who had eight birdies and a bogey in a second round 65. “I holed some great putts, which is not something I’ve done for a while. It’s nice to be up there in position, so I’ve just got to keep playing well. There are plenty of birdie opportunities if you hit it in the right place. The course is in amazing condition.
“I’ve been in this position a few times now in the last year or so and haven’t been able to finish it off, so to do that this week would be great.”
It has been a fine few weeks for Praegant, who sealed Austria’s place in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in November by winning the European Qualifier with Roland Steiner, then a week later nearly claimed the Norwegian Challenge but lost in a play-off to Pavan.
For the second day running he produced a four-hole run of birdies, this time from the third, but that was immediately followed by a bogey - his first of the week – at the seventh. A fine putt yielded another birdie at the ninth, and he played the back nine in one under par, with consecutive birdies at the 12th and 13th and a bogey at the 14th.
“My long game was so-so today,” said the 27 year old. “Yesterday it wasn’t brilliant but today I struggled a bit with it. I had ten putts on the front nine though which is the reason for this score. And I chipped in for birdie at the fifth.
“I’m just putting so well. I holed a couple from around seven metres, and anything from three metres or closer I know is going to go in, I’m that confident. I’ve been leading a few times this year and I’m comfortable with it. The last few weeks have been really good and I’m feeling great with a lot of confidence.”