It might not have been as spectacular as his course record opening round 62 but the second round 70 posted by Dean Robertson at Houghton Golf Club succeeded in keeping the Scot at the head of affairs at the halfway stage of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
The 30 year old from Paisley was unable to reproduce the fireworks of the opening day when he recorded his lowest ever round on the European Tour, but his 12 under par total of 132 nevertheless kept him one shot clear of the field going into the weekend.
Close on the heels of Robertson were a cluster of six players on 11 under par 133, the English trio of Justin Rose, Nick Faldo and defending champion Anthony Wall, Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzales, host nation favourite Des Terblanche and Australian teenager Adam Scott.
Robertson knew it would be unrealistic to expect to match his magical first round display on the greens, where he needed just 22 putts, and indeed he quickly found trouble with dropped shots at the second and third holes, his first bogeys of the tournament.
But the 1999 Italian Open champion, now completely free of the virus which blighted much of his 2000 European Tour campaign, steadied the ship with two birdies to be out in level-par 36 and when he added another on the 14th he had regained the lead on 11 under.
Robertson was unable to take advantage of the par five 16th but played a superb recovery from the greenside bunker on the last to sign off with a closing birdie four.
"It was always going to be difficult going from having no expectations to having the weight of the tournament on your shoulders," said Robertson. "But I'm as happy with my 70 as I was with my 62. It was important to try and consolidate the excellent work of the first round, and I think I've done that."
In the chasing pack, Nick Faldo moved into contention for his first European Tour win in more than six years after the six-times Major winner added a superb second-round 65 to his opening 68.
The former World Number One put on a vintage display with seven birdies and no dropped shots. Faldo, whose last victory in Europe came in the Alfred Dunhill Open in Belgium in 1994, birdied the first two holes, added another at the fifth to be out in 33 and then rolled in a hat-trick of birdies from the tenth.
He should have picked up another shot on the par five 16th after going narrowly over the green in two but chipped eight feet past and missed the putt. But he made amends on the next by saving par with a delightful chip over a bunker guarding the front of the green.
His final birdie came on the last where he received a free drop from the grandstand behind the green and then coaxed a chip down to four feet and holed the putt.
Playing partner and defending champion Wall went one better with a brilliant 64, finishing birdie-eagle with a superb approach to seven feet on the last.
Former amateur sensation Rose was equally impressive in compiling his 67 and could have had a share of the lead after seeing a short birdie putt on the last curl agonisingly wide of the hole.
Faldo admitted his long barren spell without a victory had preyed on his conscience but that now he felt free from pressure with his golf course design business taking off. "It's four years since I won an individual event (the Nissan Open in America in 1997), so it's been while," said the 43 year old.
"It does play on your mind, and you start wondering what it feels like to put yourself in that position again. But I have nothing to lose now. If it's good it's good and if it isn't then it doesn't matter because I'm building my pension in a different way, literally."
Playing partner Wall, a long-time admirer of Faldo, enjoyed seeing the former World Number One rediscovering his form and recognised the importance of a new, mellower attitude.
"I get on well with Nick, and it's nice to play with him," said Wall, whose 64 was his lowest ever tournament round. "He seems to have a very good attitude, a bit more mellow. I watched him a lot when I was younger, and he was awesome - certainly the best sportsman ever produced in Britain."
Wall credited his round to a tip from his father Tom an hour before play, along with a change of golf ball and irons. "I was lucky yesterday to finish birdie-birdie to break 70, and the lesson before I went out made a huge difference. It was different class today,’’ he said.
The trio of Englishmen in joint second was completed by Rose, whose 11 under par 133 was his best halfway total since turning professional. "It feels good to be in contention," said the 20 year old. "I've carried the form from practice last week into the tournament. That is nice, and I feel really relaxed. It's a culmination of all the hard work and practice, and the learning I have been doing is beginning to pay off."
Also on the 133 mark were South African Des Terblanche, who raised hopes of a home success with an excellent second round 65, Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez, who went one better with a 64 and Australian Adam Scott who consolidated his position by adding a 66 to his opening 67.
One shot adrift in a tie for eighth place was another Scot Alastair Forsyth and South African Michael Kirk, who both carded 66’s for a ten under par total of 134.2nd Round Scores
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