Four of the leading six players on the Volvo Order of Merit entered the Canon European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre, and all four go into the weekend chasing halfway leader Eduardo Romero of Argentina after a day of low scoring in the Swiss sunshine.
Romero fired a three under par 68 for a ten under par total of 132 after two rounds, but hard on his heels are the current first and second on the Volvo Order of Merit, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke on 135 with Thomas Björn on 136 and Phillip Price on 137.
It was just the sort of scenario Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance wanted to see as four of the leading lights in Europe showed their mettle in the first of 46 qualifying events which will lead to the top ten players playing their way into the team . Westwood shot a 66 and Clarke a 67 to share second place with Hennie Otto of South Africa (69) and Australian Jarrod Moseley (67).
Björn, after beginning the day at one over par, cut a swathe through the back nine.going 2,4,3,2 – five under par for four holes – from the 13th. His best of the day 64 elevated him into fourth place with Price, joint runner-up in the WGC-NEC Invitational, recording a 68 for a five under par total.
Romero admitted that his concentration lapses are still perturbing him. The 46 year old Argentinian has taken up yoga to eliminate the problem but said: “I am working hard to sort it out. My mind just seems to go at times and I can’t see the lines of the putts. I have to talk to myself to concentrate more.”
Defending champion Westwood, who was only four under at the same stage last year before letting loose on the weekend, expressed quiet satisfaction with his position after two rounds. He said: “This puts me in a good position. Nobody’s running away with it.”
Clarke was less happy at being three strokes off the pace. He said: “It should be an awful lot better. I’ve hardly missed any greens but two putted the majority of them. I had 32 putts today for 67 which is very poor.
“I am hitting the ball well enough but I’m not converting my chances. Trying to hit those greens is tough and I’m doing it but not taking advantage.”
Björn had looked in danger of missing the cut after his first round of 72, but the Dane bounced back effectively on the second day. He raced home in 30 blows for his 64 and admitted: “It took me a while to get awake this week. I was tired after winning the BMW International Open on Sunday. I played solid on the front nine and went crazy on the back nine.”
As he surveyed the leader board packed with talent, Björn also endorsed Lee Westwood’s candidacy as European No.1 by the end of the season. He remarked: “I definitely think it will be difficult for Colin Montgomerie to overtake Lee, Darren and myself before the end of the year. It will be hard for Colin to make it eight in a row and I think anyway it’s time for a change. All credit to Colin but Lee probably deserves to be European No.1.”
Price, who birdied five of his last seven holes, joined the fray on five under par and admitted he had received a “fantastic” reaction to his performance at Firestone Country Club a couple of weeks ago.
“I definitely feel good out there” he said. “It must help me to finish so high in America. I think the people were shocked at how well I did, better than they expected. They all seemed really pleased for me.”
Nick Faldo, a six-time major winner, made the cut on level par while his playing partner Seve Ballesteros – who collected five majors himself – also survived right on the qualifying mark or 145, three over par.Day 2 Video Highlights