Thomas Björn of Denmark produced a blistering nine under par 63 at Golfclub Munchen Nord-Eichenried to move smoothly into the lead in the BMW International Open. Björn, who finished tied second in the Open Championship and third in the US PGA, holds a one stroke advantage at halfway as he seeks his first victory of the year.
Björn goes into the weekend on a 12 under par total of 132, one ahead of Irishman Padraig Harrington, and Miguel Angel Martin and two in front of another Spaniard in Carl Suneson, the winner of last season’s European Challenge Tour.
It was an impressive effort by Björn, who began to work with respected coach, Pete Cowen, at the Murphy’s Irish Open in June and has begun to reap the benefits of that association.
He explained: “I felt that needed to do something with my swing – to find greater consistency - in order to be up there every week challenging for tournaments. I started working with Pete and he is the man for the job.
“We made some changes and it’s clicked in quicker than we expected. My driving has improved enormously and I needed to do this to get up among the guys at the top.”
Björn had nine birdies and no bogeys on his flawless card to overtake first round leader Per-Ulrik Johansson, who slipped back with a 74 to follow his opening 64. That also opened the door to Martin to make a forward move with a 66, using a set of clubs which he removed from his bag after the Victor Chandler British Masters.
“The old clubs are back in and it’s made a difference” he said. “I am playing with more consistency than at any time this season and my putting is good. I hit the ball close to the hole and a 66 is the worst it could have been.”
Harrington added a 66 to his opening 67 to share second place – a position he also occupied at the end of the 72 holes last year when Colin Montgomerie triumphed and Harrington’s runner-up finish earned him a Ryder Cup debut at Brookline.
“I’ve no idea why I tend to do well here” shrugged Harrington, who led after two rounds on 14 under par in 1997. “I just like the event. BMW look after us very well and I feel comfortable playing here. I am not really thinking about winning. It’s one shot at a time. Anyway, Thomas Björn is playing very well so it will take a lot of beat him.”
Suneson was assisted by five birdies in a row from the fourth hole as he compiled a second successive 67 for a total of 134. The Spaniard also attributed his improved form to a more laid-back approach to the game.
He commented: “My attitude is different. I had been trying to force things, to make them happen, instead of relaxing and letting it happen. I wanted success badly but I wasn’t getting anywhere with that approach.
“The key is to relax on the course and try to enjoy it more. Of course it’s business and sometimes it’s not easy, but I think business can be fun if you go about things in the right way.”
Greg Norman shot a 70 for 137, five behind Björn, and admitted that he could not buy a putt. He said: “I hit the ball exceptionally but I couldn’t find the bottom of the hole. If only I can make a few putts and post a 66 tomorrow I can definitely get into the shake up.”
Defending champion Montgomerie bowed out at the halfway stage after rounds of 72 and 74 for a two over par total of 146. It was his first missed cut worldwide since failing at the same juncture of the same tournament in Munich exactly two years ago this week.