Eleven days ago Korean Sihwan Kim was ruing his bad luck at narrowly missing out on qualifying for this week’s US Open Championship, but he went some way in making up for that disappointment by taking the halfway lead in the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC.
The 23 year old, who is playing his first season in Europe, was involved in a five-man play-off at Walton Heath, from which four spots to the year’s second Major were on offer. He was the unlucky one, however, and instead of heading to San Francisco, he went to Saint Omer, where he fired a two under par 69 in the second round to lead at six under.
Kim said: “I’ve been having horrendous luck for the last two weeks and I was really gutted to miss out in that play-off at Walton Heath. So I’m happy that I’m getting a bit luckier this week, and if I could do well here it would make up for it a bit. It would be nice to get some payback for that one.
“My score could have been a lot better, but I’ll just take what the course gives me. I didn’t feel that it was playing that hard, but the wind picked up over the last few holes and will definitely make the conditions tougher in the afternoon.”
And so it proved as no player threatened the lead all afternoon as the wind and rain worsened. Joint overnight leaders Adam Gee and Simon Wakefield both battled to a one over par 72 to sit at three under, two shots behind second placed South African Darren Fichardt, who added a two under par 69 to his first round 68.
“I had a stupid three-putt at the seventh which was annoying as I’d started well,” said Fichardt. “But overall I’m pleased as it was very tricky out there. The wind was gusting and making club selection very difficult. I didn’t hit it close to many pins.”
Fichardt, who played in the World Cup in 2000 with Retief Goosen, enjoyed his best finish of the season in last week’s Nordea Masters – tied 14th – which has given him more confidence.
“I’ve put myself in good positions a few times this season but then have had really bad last rounds,” he added. “So it was pleasing to finish well last week in Sweden. It was a swing thing which I’ve corrected, and it should be more reliable when under pressure.
“Hopefully it will stand me in good stead for the weekend here. I’m looking forward to it.”
Gee is finding some promising form again after missing most of last season with a hip injury which required surgery. His challenge took a blow, however, when he triple-bogeyed the par five 14th hole – his fifth – but he rallied well and finished with two birdies in the last three holes.
“I can’t be too hard on myself as I played really well today, and one over is actually a pretty good score in these conditions,” he said. “This course is tough enough in nice weather, let alone in a hurricane.
“I’m pleased with the way I bounced back from the triple bogey and I’m still up there with a good chance going into the weekend.”
The €500,000 tournament is dual-ranked between The European Tour and the Challenge Tour, and prize money counts for both The Race to Dubai and the Challenge Tour Rankings. The winner gains a European Tour exemption until the end of 2013. Eighty-one players made the cut at five over par 147.