Two players have edged their noses in front of a tightly packed leaderboard at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda, as Jérôme Lando Casanova and Andrew Johnston both posted ten under par after 36 holes at Golfclub Schloss Finkenstein.
They are a shot clear of an eight strong chasing pack, which includes home favourite HP Bacher, as well as Jeppe Huldahl, who almost registered the second 59 in Challenge Tour history.
Overnight leader Tom Murray is two shots off the lead in a nine way tie for tenth, but it could have been so much better for the Manchester man, who had lead for much of the morning before a quadruple bogey nine at the par five ninth undid much of his good work.
No such trouble for Lando Casanova though, who is back at the head of affairs having lead after 54 holes last week at the Turkish Airlines Challenge, en route to a runner-up finish. The Corsica native is clearly revelling in his second season on the Challenge Tour, and is excited to put into practice the lessons learned from the previous weekend.
“It was a very good score, but I’m particularly happy because I was not playing my best today,” said the 28 year old, after a second round of 67. “I struggled a little bit with my driver from the tee, but I hit some good shots at the right times, and holed some putts too at the end of the first nine, which made it good fun today. It was a good fight.
“It is great to be back in contention just a week after the last time in Turkey, and I will try and learn from what happened last week. There are still 36 holes to go though, so I just need to focus on my game.
“This week is more of a putting competition, as there are some short holes, but the key is to play the par fives well too. You also need to focus on the par threes as they are not too easy, but the long holes will really be the key over the weekend. I’m feeling great though, and looking forward to the challenge.”
On the same mark as Lando Casanova is Johnston, affectionately referred to as ‘Beef’ by those on Tour. The Englishman is happy to have continued a fine run of form this season, after a six under par score on Friday, as he looks to build on his tie for third place finish at last month’s Challenge de Catalunya.
“I just played really well today, and holed a few nice putts, which helped,” said the man from London. “That’s why I was a few shots better off than yesterday. It was good though, and the greens are perfect. If you hit a good putt, it is going to go in.
“It has been good so far this season. I’ve just been trying to do the right things every week, so I feel pretty confident. I just need to keep plugging away and not think too much about it.
“The course definitely suited my game when I arrived here, and tomorrow I’ll just try and do more of the same. I’ll stick to the game plan and see where it gets me.”
Huldahl jumped a staggering 113 places up the leaderboard in round two thanks to his stunning 11 under par round of 60. The 2009 Celtic Manor Wales Open winner came so close to following in the footsteps of Adrian Mörk, who remains the only Challenge Tour player to have shot a 59, at the 2006 Tikida Hotels Agadir Moroccan Classic.
The Dane was clearly disappointed not to have broken 60, but could see the numerous positives that come with such a low round. He just wished it was one stroke better.
“I’m not sure I’ll ever get a better chance than that to shoot 59,” said the 31 year old from Copenhagen. “And of all things, it was a three putt that cost me! I’m still very happy with the score though, but in a way I’m a little disappointed.”
“I certainly wasn’t expecting today’s round at all though. Standing here last night on the range I couldn’t seem to find it, which is so weird as I played really well last week, but it was gone. Then this morning I didn’t have the best warm-up, but something seemed to click out there.
“Tomorrow is always going to be tough after a round like that. I’ve tried playing after a low round a few times before, so hopefully I’ve learned from that. I will just need to forget about today, as it is no use to me tomorrow.”
Other notables include two-time European Tour winner Daniel Vancsik (66), who is just a stroke adrift of the leading duo, as he looks to find his best form once more. He is alongside last week’s runner-up Dave Coupland (66) as well as Scott Arnold (67), Paul Maddy (68), Ruaidhri McGee (65) and the aforementioned Bacher (67).
Also in contention is Welshman Rhys Enoch, who shot a 63 on Friday to move to eight under par, while defending Champion Dylan Frittelli is a shot further back after a 64 of his own in round two.