Per-Ulrik Johansson took advantage of benign afternoon conditions at The Oxfordshire to shoot a course record-equalling 65 which propelled him into the halfway lead in the Benson and Hedges International Open.
The 32-year-old Swede, without a victory since the Smurfit European Open in 1997 and sporting a new blond dyed hairstyle beneath his ‘back to front’ cap, fired five birdies and an eagle to climb to an 11 under par total of 133 after two rounds of the first event in the U.K. this season.
The sparks certainly flew in the group containing Johansson, Colin Montgomerie and Paul McGinley as all three players managed to inspire each other to the huge enjoyment of the galleries.
Johansson launched his assault at the seventh – the first of four consecutive birdies which was followed by a sublime eagle at the 11th. That run set up an outward 32 and inward 33 for a 65 which matched the earlier effort of another Swede, Christopher Hanell.
As Johansson leapt to the lead of affairs, Montgomerie set off in hot pursuit and compiled an immaculate card of his own with six birdies and no bogeys in a 66 which left him on 134, 10 under par, while McGinley carded a five under par 67 for 139.
It was a wonderful day’s golf at The Oxfordshire as many of the world’s greatest players underlined their desire to contend this week and to fight for points to get into Europe’s Ryder Cup side later in the season.
Nick Faldo continued his revival with a 69 to add to his first round 68 for 137, a total he shares with new Masters champion, Jose Maria Olazabal, who moved into contention with a 67.
Johansson and Montgomerie, Ryder Cup team mates on two occasions, will be partnered for the third day running – and neither will complain after the way they drew from each other’s confidence.
Montgomerie said: “It was a good group. We kept each other going and didn’t drop a shot between the three of us.
“This is the third time I’ve been in the final group over the weekend in the Benson and Hedges and I haven’t won yet. I tend to do well, but it’s just a case of finishing it off.”
Welshman Phil Price’s excellent season continued in the second round. Price, who shared the first round lead with Miguel Angel Jimenez, birdied the second, third and fourth to move out on his own.
However he double bogeyed the 10th after going into the water and did well to recover with two further birdies for a round of 70 and third place on nine under par, 135. He is one ahead of Argentinian Angel Cabrera, who tagged a 67 onto his 69 for 136.