Robert Karlsson continued to produce a peak performance in the shadow of the Swiss Alps, a second round 66 extending his lead at the halfway stage of the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre.
The 33 year old Swede, who led by one shot overnight following his opening 65 increased that to four with his 11 under par total of 131, his nearest challengers being fellow countryman Klas Eriksson and Scotland’s Andrew Coltart who both ended the day on seven under par 135.
Following an opening round as good as 65 is often difficult in terms of momentum, but Karlsson had no problems in that regard, even shrugging off an 80 minute delay for early morning fog, to rattle in birdies at each of his opening three holes.
After finding the heart of the 543 yard opening hole in two, two putts from 40 feet brought his first birdie before an eight iron to a foot at the second brought another. The four time winner on The European Tour International Schedule then rolled in a five foot birdie putt on the third to give a clear indication of his intentions to the rest of the field.
Although the rest of the round was not as spectacular, it was certainly solid, par figures recorded at each hole apart from the par five 14th, which yielded a birdie four, and the par three 16th, which offered up a birdie two.
“I played pretty good all the way round,” said Karlsson. “I struggled a little bit on the beginning of the back nine but if you don’t hit the fairways here it is very difficult to get to the greens. But I hit most greens or just missed them so there was no real danger of dropping shots apart from on the 17th where I holed it from ten to 12 feet. It was a good effort.
“I just wanted to go out and try and make it happen for me again. You shoot 65 yesterday but today it is another day and you are never quite sure what will happen. You can’t expect to come out and shoot 65 again, you just have to try and see how it goes.”
One of Karlsson’s closest challengers, Andrew Coltart, has been consistency personified this season, making the cut 20 times in his 24 outings to date, but gave himself the chance to turn steadiness into success over the weekend with an excellent second round 65 for a seven under par total of 135.
The Scot’s only dropped shot of the day came at the short eighth, but he more than made up for that with seven other birdies, including a pitch in from 12 feet at the 11th and a wonderful curling 15 footer in front of the grandstands at the 18th.
“I feel good because I haven’t played badly all season, I just haven’t put things together that’s all,” said Coltart. “I’ve made a lot of cuts and that’s a good indication as to how I’m playing and I just need a couple of putts to go in and something to happen over the weekend. But it is just nice to be there or thereabouts.”
Joining Coltart on the seven under par mark was Klas Eriksson who endured a rollercoaster trip around the picturesque Crans-sur-Sierre course, carding five birdies, three bogeys and an eagle three at the 543 yard first hole (his tenth) in his 67.
The Swede, who currently lies 105th on the Volvo Order of Merit admitted he was delighted with his opening efforts.
“Obviously in my mind I want to secure my card first of all, that is the main thing but as you need to make the cut first of all before you can have a chance to do anything else,” said Eriksson.
“I had a chance in Qatar this year but I blew it away in the last round and I really felt I might not have another chance again this year but hopefully I can do it this weekend. It was an exciting round, I wasn’t as solid as I was yesterday, but I’ll take it, that’s golf.”
One shot behind Coltart and Eriksson were four players who reached halfway in the tournament on six under par 136, Emanuele Canonica (68), Alex Cejka (69), Paul Lawrie (70) and Carlos Rodiles (66).
Elsewhere, the three Ryder Cup players in the field endured differing fortunes; Phillip Price moved into contention with a 68 for a five under par total of 137, Thomas Björn just made the cut on one over par 143 after his 74, but Lee Westwood missed out on three over par 145 following his 74.