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Friday, 25 April 2003
Identical opening rounds of 64 and 65 helped the English duo of Paul Casey and Miles Tunnicliff into a share of the lead at the halfway stage of the Canarias Open de España at Golf Costa Adeje in Tenerife.

On another day of exceptionally low scoring, Casey and Tunnicliff both finished two shots clear of the field on 15 under par 129, their nearest challengers being a group of four players, England’s Simon Khan, Ireland’s Peter Lawrie, and the Spanish duo of Santiago Luna and José Maria Olazábal.

The 15 under par totals matched the lowest recorded to par of the season after 36 holes, namely Arjun Atwal in the Carlsberg Malaysian Open and Ernie Els in the Johnnie Walker Classic, Casey and Tunnicliff’s cards awash with red birdie figures.

Casey, who has won twice on The European Tour International Schedule including this season’s ANZ Championship in Sydney, started at the tenth hole and four birdies saw him to the ‘turn’ in 32.

On the front nine the 25 year old, returning to action after a six week break, dropped his only shot of the day at the short seventh but more than made amends with birdies at the first, sixth, eighth and ninth holes, closing with a curling 15 footer for three for his 65.

“I've not usually performed well after a break before, but I've been playing a lot at home in Arizona. It's kept me sharp,” he said. “It was almost a relief when last season ended because I was tired, but then I played with Justin Rose in the World Cup and finished third and possibly that was a turning point.”

Tunnicliff, who notched his maiden European Tour title in emotional fashion in The Great North Open at De Vere Slaley Hall last summer only two weeks after the death of his golf-loving mother, was also in scintillating form especially on the front nine where he notched six birdies in total.

The yield dried up slightly on the inward half but a closing birdie four on the 18th helped him home in 34 for his 65. “I’ve never been 15 under par after two rounds before,” admitted Tunnicliff. “But I feel comfortable with my game and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

Of the four players on 13 under par 131, perhaps the most aggrieved at not being even higher up the leaderboard was double Masters Champion Olazábal who started in spectacular fashion with five birdies in his first six holes from the tenth.

The 37 year old Spaniard, looking to claim his first Canarias Open de España title, saw his progress halted slightly when he bogeyed the 16th and he could only card two other birdies in his round – at the first and eighth – to be home in 35 for a 67.

“Obviously after my start I was a little disappointed not to have scored a little bit better overall,” he said. “On my back nine I just wasn’t swinging it as well as I had been at the start and didn’t hole any putts, so there you go.

“The way the course is playing, anyone who plays well from tee to green is going to have chances to make birdie and that is what it will be all about this weekend – the guy who makes the most putts will win.”

Alongside Olazábal, Khan and Luna both carded impressive eight under par 64s although they went about it in different ways, Luna flawless with eight birdies while Khan dropped two shots but made amends with six birdies and two eagles.

Further down the leaderboard, pre-tournament favourite and defending champion Sergio Garcia, looking to be the first player since Max Faulkner 50 years ago to win two years in succession, ended his opening two rounds on eight under par 136, seven shots off the lead.

A little bit of history was made when the cut fell at six under par 138, the lowest cut recorded to par in the history of The European Tour. The previous lowest had been five under par, recorded in both the 1992 and 1997 BMW International Opens and the 1996 Volvo German Open.

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