Francisco Cea of Spain stormed into the lead in the Fiat and Fila Italian Open at Circolo Golf, Torino, with a second round of 65 which eclipsed two more famous Spaniards, Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros.
Both Ballesteros and Olazabal made the cut in the event, but it was 25-year-old Cea who captured the spotlight with his seven birdie round for a two round total of 132, 12 under par.
Cea, whose greatest claim to fame was beating Sergio Garcia to win the 1995 Spanish Amateur crown, leads by two strokes from Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who added a 66 to his opening 68, and Russell Claydon of England.
The man from Malaga, who has been guided in his career by close neighbour Miguel Angel Jimenez, offered his thanks to Argentinian Eduardo Romero for giving him a helping hand.
He explained: “I had been putting badly but Eduardo gave me a putting lesson on Tuesday. He suggested I putt with my left hand below my right. It felt very good immediately. I had not tried it before but it worked. I had only 27 putts today.”
Harrington, who had managed two fourth placed finishes this season, attributed his good form to excellent iron play. For a dozen holes, though, he could not buy a putt – until holding four in a row for birdies from the 13th.
He holds a share of second place at 10 under par along side Claydon, who followed an opening 66 with a 68 and admitted: “I have to say I putted beautifully.”
Meanwhile Scotland’s Gary Orr and Dean Robertson made their first big move of the 1999 season with matching 65s for identical totals of 135, nine under par.
Still without a victory to his name, 1993 Rookie of the Year Orr has not given up hope of making the big breakthrough. He said: “Obviously a first win is the big thing for me and I will keep trying – but not too hard. I don’t want to push too hard and put more pressure on myself.”
Robertson, who led the Volvo PGA Championship last year with five holes to play, birdied seven of his last ten holes and said: “That was as good as I’ve played on Tour.”
Defending champion Patrik Sjoland, Australian Jarrod Moseley, who won the Heineken Classic in January, Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez, England’s David Carter, Roger Wessels of South Africa and Jimenez are all on eight under.
Jimenez said: “Watch out for Cea. He’s a great player. I tell you, this season or next season he will be a tournament winner. Maybe this week!”
US Open champion Lee Janzen, who seemed in danger of missing the cut after an opening 72, shot a four under par 68 to be sure of playing at the weekend. He said: “That was much better. Yesterday I couldn’t miss a fairway but could not score. Today I hardly hit one – and shot 68!”
The cut fell at two under par.