Sergio Garcia recovered from an uncertain start to his second round to thrill the home supporters by moving into the lead at the halfway stage of the Canarias Open de España at El Cortijo Club de Campo.
The 22 year old Spaniard, one shot off the pace after the first round, struggled to a par five on his opening hole, the 589 yard tenth, before going out of bounds at the straightforward 329 yard 12th to rack up a bogey five. But the World Number Five soon recovered his composure, five birdies giving him a 68 and a nine under par total of 135, one shot clear of England’s Greg Owen and two ahead of Italy’s Emanuele Canonica.
Since turning professional in 1999, Garcia has won three times on The European Tour International Schedule, three times on the US PGA Tour and once in South Africa but has yet to taste success on Spanish soil. He admitted to do that, would give the victory an extra edge.
“Obviously that would be great because I am in my home country but there are still two days to go and we’ve got to take things one step at a time,” he said. “It would also be good because over the last couple of months I have felt I should have won at least one tournament but didn’t. To win here would be a real boost to my confidence.”
If he was looking for a fillip Garcia need only glance at the way he tackled the middle section of the tricky El Cortijo course, made harder by the wind, absent on the first day but which returned with a vengeance for the second round.
In the 11 holes from the 14th to the sixth, the Ryder Cup player notched five birdies and missed numerous other chances to extend his lead. Indeed he admitted leaving the course a little disappointed having spurned further birdie chances at the eighth and ninth.
“They are pretty easy holes and not birdieing them was a pity and unfortunately that has been the case for me on both days,” said Garcia. “I am happy with my play but the finish was not as good as I had expected.”
One man entirely happy with his form however was second placed Greg Owen, the 30 year old from Mansfield, who added a 69 to his opening 67 to tuck himself in behind Garcia on eight under par 136.
The assumption amongst most people in Gran Canaria is that Garcia will be crowned champion come Sunday night but Owen, understandably, did not see the picture quite that way.
“Let’s wait and see but I am playing really well and he is going to have to beat me_I’m not going to go away,” he said. “I’ve been learning, it’s taken a while, but it is about time I started showing where I think I belong.
“I’ve played in the Open and I’ve led the Open at one stage so I’ve had experience. I’ve done my learning curve and now I think I’m on the way up. I’ve just got to try and keep playing as well as I have been, keep the same thoughts going and keep my mind clear.”
Owen, like most players, dropped shots in the testing wind, his bogeys coming at the uphill seventh and the short 17th, but birdies at the first, second, tenth, 14th and 16th more than made up for that.
Third placed Canonica, who finished in a tie for ninth place in the Algarve Open de Portugal a fortnight ago, continued to tap into a rich vein of form although his second round had a definite rollercoaster feel to it, the 30 year old Italian, who lost his European Tour card last year, posting six birdies, an eagle and five bogeys in a 69 which left him on seven under par 137.
“My game is there and I’m playing a lot better than I did last year,” he said. “I haven’t really done anything to my swing but it just feels better which is giving me more confidence on the course.”
Three players shared fourth place on six under par 138, England’s Warren Bennett, who carded a 70, Germany’s Marcel Siem who posted 71, and Spain’s Carl Suneson, who had equal halves of 35 in his second round 70.
It was a disappointing day however for the two players who had shared the first round lead on six under par, David Gilford and Soren Hansen. Gilford carded a 77 to slip back to one under par for the tournament while Hansen posted a 78 to move back to level.
However, both made the cut which came at two over par 146 as did Retief Goosen, the current leader of the Volvo Order of Merit, who continued to struggle on the greens and posted his second consecutive 73 to make the weekend's action right on the mark.