Jesper Parnevik and Greg Owen continued The European Tour’s strong showing in the 130th Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes when they both moved into a share of the clubhouse lead after respective second round 68s.
The 36 year old Swede and the 29 year old Englishman's sterling efforts moved them to five under par 137 for the tournament alongside unheralded American Joe Ogilvie and firmly into contention.
Behind the duo there were even more glad tidings for The European Tour as Eduardo Romero carded his own 68 to move to four under par 138 alongside both Alex Cejka and Niclas Fasth who both carded 69s.
“I feel very confident right now and I am playing as well as I can remember for a long time,” said Parnevik. “When you get cross winds across holes like you have today, the key to your game is ball control in both directions and I feel very confident in that aspect of my game right now.”
The Swede, who claimed the runner-up slot in the Open at both Turnberry in 1994 and Royal Troon in 1997, gave himself the perfect chance to go one better this time with an excellent start to his second round.
The four-time winner on The European Tour International Schedule began with a birdie two at the opening hole after his six iron tee shot found the centre of the green and he rolled in his resultant 15 footer.
Further birdies followed at the seventh and eighth to see him to the turn in 32 and when he birdied the long 11th from a greenside bunker, he glimpsed a share of the lead with first round pacesetter Colin Montgomerie.
Parnevik then traded shots with the Lancashire links at the 14th and 15th holes before a trip into a greenside bunker at the 17th saw him drop his final shot of the day to be home in level par 36.
Parnevik put part of his success down to his putter, which he used for the first time at the Honda Classic on the US PGA Tour in March, a tournament he went on to win.
“It was after the pro-am on the Wednesday night there that a guy just came up to me and said he’d invented a new putter and handed it to me – I hit it a couple of times and then won the tournament,” he said. “It’s been pretty much in the bag since then. I know it looks a little strange, but sometimes it works!”
While Parnevik is used to the upper echelons of Major Championship leaderboards, the experience was a new one for Greg Owen but the Englishman handled the occasion magnificently and even brushed off a three putt bogey five on the final green.
“I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much after three putting,” admitted Owen. “It was a difficult first putt and perhaps I went for it a little too much because I wanted to hole it but it really doesn’t matter now – this is fantastic.
“The first time I saw my name on the leaderboard was the big one at the 18th and there it was on top. I turned to my caddie and said, ‘Hey look, we’re leading the Open Championship, and then it was real shivers down the spine stuff.”
Out in 34, Owen made his main move up the leaderboard in an excellent back nine, birdieing the 11th and the 13th before carding a rare birdie three at the tough 467 yard 17th, firing a three wood to 15 feet before rolling the putt home.
One shot adrift, Niclas Fasth grabbed the opportunity of playing in the Open Championship for the first time with both hands, after having failed to qualify five times in the past.
“Obviously I didn’t have to go to the qualifying this year (he came through the cumulative money exempt category) so that meant there was a better chance for me to prepare and it felt great to finally get inside the ropes and play,” he said.
“It’s great to make the cut and now I feel that’s a good start. I still have a chance in the tournament to do really well on the weekend. Obviously it’s a tough call to try and win, but I am going to go out and try my best.”
Certainly if the winner of the 2000 Madeira Island Open can produce his second round form in the last 36 holes of the event he will have a chance, taking on the demanding second day pins and returning with a yield of four birdies, the highlight coming at the second where he pitched in from off the green.
Another player delighted with his lofty position was Germany’s Alex Cejka, who came through the Final Qualifying at Hillside to continue his love affair with Royal Lytham & St Annes, a course where he finished tied 11th in the 1996 Open.
“I’m comfortable here, I’m making good shots, putting well and keeping out of trouble so we’ll see if I can continue that over the next two days,” he said.
“I am lucky just to be here and to be playing with the big boys. Now I find myself on the leaderboard so it’s a little bit exciting but I’m very happy – I was not nervous though, just trying to play my game.
Eduardo Romero, who made the cut in both the last two Open Championships at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1988 and 1996, ensured that statistic would continue with a consistent second round 68, his only dropped shot of the day at the third, cancelled out emphatically with birdies at the seventh, ninth, 11th and 13th.