Ian Poulter moved into a share of the lead in the BMW International Open alongside Richard Bland and Jamie Spence despite having his caddie hospitalised after being struck down with pneumonia.
Poulter’s regular bagman Jimmy Rae had been struggling for the past couple of weeks and when things took a turn for the worse during the opening round, Rae finally sought medical help. He was immediately rushed to hospital and put on a drip after being diagnosed with pneumonia.
While Poulter’s first concern was for Rae’s welfare it still left him with a problem of who would caddie for him for the rest of the tournament. Following Colin Montgomerie’s withdrawal from the event on Tuesday, Poulter knew Andy Prodger was free and after disrupting his grass cutting at 5pm last night, persuaded him to fly the Munich. A mad dash ensued to get to Golfclub Munchen Nord-Eichenreid in time for his 1.10pm tee time, not helped by an hour’s delay at Heathrow, but with 35 minutes to spare the pair were united.
Despite never having caddied for him before, the partnership flourished as Poulter raced to the turn in 31, five under par, helped in no small measure by nine consecutive single putts. One bogey and two birdies coming home completed a round of 66 and moved him into a share of the lead on 13 under par.
“It will mean a bit of time off for Jimmy, three or four weeks, and a lengthy course of antibiotics,” said Poulter “It put me in a position of who can I try and get hold of. There were a few guys here but I thought if I am going to get someone on the bag I want someone who has been there. I made a couple of phone calls and managed to get hold of Andy Prodger who was cutting his grass at the time at 5pm. Had a quick chat to his wife who said go over and he managed to get here for about 12.30 today. It was nice of him to come over.
“I have played with Phillip Price and Monty and seen how he works and he is a very experienced caddie. He has been there and down it and won tournaments and majors. You are not going to be a bad caddie and have all those winning attributes.”
Poulter’s caddie wasn’t the only one to be struck ill as the home favourite and first round leader Bernhard Langer was struggling against food poisoning. Langer has won 11 titles on home soil but the BMW International Open title is the only one missing from his CV. An opening 64 put him on the right track to correct that record but the second round was a battle from start to finish. In the end a fighting 69, three under par, left him on 11 under par 133 and on two shots off the lead.
“It was definitely the hardest round I have ever played,” said Langer. “If I was well down the field I wouldn’t have played but once I start a round I always try to finish. It was tough but nothing is lost and two behind the leaders is not a bad situation.”
For Bland and Spence there were no such dramas. Bland added a second round 66 to his opening 65 to record his best start in his first season on The European Tour. Bland, who lost a play-off in the Murphy’s Irish Open two months ago, picked up eight birdies and dropped only two shots, the first of the week, to set the early target.
“I didn’t play as well as yesterday but the putter saved me today,” he said. “Hopefully this weekend hopefully I can draw on what I learned in Ireland. That gave me a lot of confidence.”
A call to coach Peter Mitchell helped Spence correct his posture and the lesson immediately paid dividends as he raced round in 64 strokes to join Bland on 13 under par.
“I played a lot better today,” he said. “I’d got my weight way too far forward as I have throughout my career really. I get over the top of the ball too much and Mitch told me to get back on my heels a bit more and use my legs more in the swing. That’s what he told me three months ago when I first started working with him but sometimes you just need reminding. It helped me a lot today.
“The course is in the best condition is has been in since we started this tournament. It is in excellent condition and is there for good scoring. The greens were fantastic this morning, the best they have ever been and hence you are going to have low scores. There are not many breaks here so most of the putts don’t leave the hole and that’s why you see low scores.”
Spence’s 64 was matched by Thomas Bjorn, winner here in 1999, as he moved within one stroke of the leading pack. The Ryder Cup player reached the turn in 34 but stepped up a gear to race home in 30 as he chases a second victory at Golfclub Munchen Nord-Eichenreid.
“I always enjoy coming back here,” said the Dane. “I always seem to do well on this course and it is probably what I need. I played all right for a while just not producing the numbers. I needed to get on a course where I could let the confidence come to me rather than chase it all the time. That has been an important thing this week. I feel comfortable with my game and know I can win round here.”
The best round of the day however came for Paul Casey, his 63 just one stroke outside the course record. That took him to nine under par and just four off the lead. The cut fell at four under par.