Maarten Lafeber picked up six birdies in his last ten holes to pull away from the field at the halfway stage of the Trophée Lancôme at Saint-Nom-La-Bretêche.
Lafeber came home in just 31 strokes for a second successive 65 to move to 12 under par, two shots clear of Germany’s Alex Cejka, and five shots clear of the group sharing third place.
Starting at the tenth, Lafeber, who finished joint second in the Madeira Island Open earlier this year where he led after three rounds, made an inauspicious start with eight straight pars. But the 27 year old Dutchman holed his bunker shot on the 18th to ignite his round.
A nine foot putt for birdie got his back nine off to the perfect start and two holes later he moved to nine under par after hitting a six iron to 25feet and holing the birdie putt. The fifth and sixth holes were also birdied before he capped the round off with a sixth birdie of the round on the par five eighth hole, pitching to five feet after his three wood approach finished to the left of the green.
“I had some good chances early in the round, kept patient and then holed the bunker shot to get the round going,” said Lafeber. “I putted well, 29 putts today and 27 putts yesterday which helps and it was good to find the right place on the greens as the pins were tricky today.”
Two shots behind is overnight leader Cejka, who followed his opening 64 with a three under par 68 to lie on ten under par. Cejka, second in his last outing in the Linde German Masters, also started on the tenth but made the better start with a brace of birdies on the 11th and 12th holes. Three putts from 40 feet on the next hole cost him a bogey and it was not until his last two holes that he finally made another birdie.
“My target was to shoot in the 60s today after yesterday’s 64 so the two birdie finish achieved that,” said Cejka, who is chasing his first European Tour title since winning three times in 1995. “My confidence is high, holed a lot of good putts and got up and down six times.”
Ricardo Gonzalez equalled Lafeber’s 65 thanks to seven birdies and just the one bogey to move to seven under par and five shots off the lead. Gonzalez, winner of the Omega European Masters last year, has his sights on climbing into the top 15 in the Volvo Order of Merit from 25th and feels three top ten finishes in the last three events of the year could be enough.
“I played fantastic today,” said the Argentine. “Very few mistakes. If I can get three top tens, or maybe win, then I could get in the top 15 which helps you qualify for the Majors.”
Bradley Dredge, one of the most consistent performers this season with seven top ten finishes, fired a 67 to join Gonzalez on seven under par. Dredge, who will team up with Ian Woosnam in the WGC – EMC World Cup in two months time in Mexico, picked up an eagle and two birdies in his last four holes to advance up the leaderboard.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia bogeyed the last to finish on five under par while his Ryder Cup Captain birdied three of the last four holes to make the cut at two under par.