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Friday, 03 May 2019
Martin Simonsen  (Getty Images)
Martin Simonsen (Getty Images)

Marcus Armitage, Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez and Danish duo Rasmus Højgaard and Martin Simonsen share the lead at the halfway stage of the Challenge de España at Izki Golf.

The quartet are tied at the top of the leaderboard on six under par, having all carded rounds under par on a cold and wet day as the event celebrates its 20th anniversary in Urturi, Spain.

Garcia Rodriguez set the target early on Friday as he shot a bogey-free front nine, before returning to the clubhouse level par, including a birdie on the last after bogeying the 17th to card a round of 70, two under par.

With the wind swirling and the rain continuing to fall, Simonsen fired in three birdies on his blemish-free opening nine holes to move into contention, and a further gain alongside one dropped shot saw him join the Spanish hopeful at the top of the leaderboard.

Armitage, who triumphed at the 2016 Foshan Open, has his sights set on further European Challenge Tour success and put himself in contention at the end of round two. The Englishman started quickly with three birdies in his opening four holes, and responded to a dropped shot with another gain to make the turn on three under par. With back-to-back bogeys on his 15th and 16th holes, Armitage needed a special finish to join the leaders and ended his round birdie-eagle-par to card a four under par round of 68.  

The final group of the day included Challenge Tour debutant and Junior Ryder Cup star Højgaard, who carded the joint low round of the day to share the lead. After making the turn on one under par, Højgaard fired in four further birdies, including gains on 17 and 18, to sign for a round of 67, five under par.

With two players a shot behind the foursome and eight players a further stroke back, carding a low round in difficult conditions was key on day two in Spain.

“I set off like Usain Bolt in the 100 metres,” Armitage said. “I tried something new with the putter and it helped me set off fast.

“I had a couple of back-to-back three putts, but I thought there was a couple of opportunities coming in, which I capitalised on.

“It’s the start of the season and it’s going to be a long year ahead, so I’ve just got to go for it and see what happens over the weekend.

“The conditions were very difficult,” said Simonsen. “It was windy and then there was a lot of rain, which made it pretty difficult. I would’ve taken three under before I teed off this morning, that’s for sure.

“I had one bad drive on my second hole, the 11th, but other than that I played well all day. I’m a little disappointed with the bogey on the 8th, my 17th, but that’s how it is.

“I’ll just go out and play my game and see what happens tomorrow because the leaderboard is really packed. There are still 36 holes to play, which is a lot of golf, and hopefully it is warmer tomorrow.”

Filip Mruzek and Joel Sjöholm are a stroke behind the quartet following their respective rounds of 70 and 69. Overnight leaders Michael Hoey and Martin Wiegele failed to take advantage of their lead and lie tied 36th and in a share of seventh place respectively. 

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