Australian Stephen Allan, whose only previous victory came in the German Open two years ago, stepped up his bid for a second European Tour title by firing a second round 67 to take the halfway lead in the TNT Dutch Open with a nine under par total of 135. Allan holds a one stroke advantage over his fellow countryman Stephen Leaney, a pair of Swedes - Richard Johnson and Mathias Grönberg - and Argentinian Eduardo Romero.
Allan’s year has been blighted by a hip injury, and the 27 year old from Melbourne has only recently started to hit the sort of form which earned him the title in Berlin in August 1998.
He picked up six birdies and dropped one shot after a dreaded ‘shank’ at the first to place himself first on t he grid going into a weekend which sees over 30 players within five strokes of the lead, including defending champion Lee Westwood.
Allan explained: “It was just tightness in my right hip which caused the problem and I had to get physiotherapy every day and lost my consistency. My caddie helps me with stretching exercises in the locker room before I tee off and it’s working.”
The Australian has made his last five cuts and finished tied fourth in the Standard Life Loch Lomond a fortnight ago. Now he aims to get back in the winner’s enclosure after that period in the doldrums.
Leaney, the joint first round leader with Johnson, birdied the first and last and had 16 solid pars in between to maintain his challenge for a third European Tour title on 136, eight under par.
Johnson, 23, has already secured his card for next season after finishing second in the Madeira Island Open. The young Swede, who had a second round 70, will have his nerve tested if he remains in contention -–although not tested to the extent it once was when he attempted to make the grade at skate-boarding.
“I took part in the Swedish championships, but I realised I wasn’t good enough. To be really good you have to be crazy to do the stunts. I got scared after a while and left the sport to others!”
Grönberg shot a second round of 68 to climb the leader board while Romero, third last year, conjured up a wonderful eagle three at the second with a drive and four iron to within one inch of the hole.
That set up his four under par score which left him in a four-way tie for second place while Bernhard Langer, a winner at Noordwijkse eight year ago, moved into contention with a round of 68 for 137, seven under par.
Westwood, out in three over par and back in three under for a roller-coaster day on the links, remains in good shape on 139, five under. He said: “I played average golf and putted like an idiot. Still, four behind with two rounds to go is pretty good.”
Also on five under par is Padraig Harrington, who compiled a round of 70 after considering pulling out of the tournament with a sore neck. He explained: “It happened after seven holes yesterday and it seems that a joint was out of place and the muscle went into spasm.
“It was very stiff when I woke up this morning and didn’t think I could play. I had 90 minutes of treatment and it got a lot looser. The physios reckon they’ve fixed the problem and encouraged me to play as it should get easier from now on.”Second round video highlightsThird round tee-times