The Danish wagon keeps in rolling, this time with Thomas Björn leading the way after a sensational eight under par 64 at Le Golf National took the Ryder Cup player two strokes clear of the field at the halfway stage of the Open de France.
Five days after Søren Kjeldsen won the Diageo Championship at Gleneagles to become the fifth Dane to win on the European Tour International Schedule in the last 13 months, Björn took up the baton with an outstanding round that included nine birdies and just the one dropped shot to move to ten under par 134.
Among the grouh of five players two shots behind the original Great Dane is another of his countrymen, Anders Hansen, after the 2002 Volvo PGA Champion shot a second round 66 to lie on eight under par.
Hansen was later joined on that mark by the two of the overnight leaders in Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Philip Golding of England along with David Howell and Jose Manuel Lara.
But the talk of the day was about the rise of Danish golf and the impact this country is having on The European Tour.
“We have a generation of Danish players that are very good,” said Björn. “We are very fortunate to have not one or two players but four players around the same age as well as Steen Tinning who has won a couple of times. But we have four players who work very hard. That’s the way we used to look at the Swedes. They were very determined, hard workers and really got out there and did the job. We have adopted that mentality.
“Søren’s win last week was a wake up call for all of us. I think both Soren and Anders Hansen got here very determined. There is a different look in their eyes. They have worked very hard, both of them this week on the range. Sometimes you have to stick your head down. That’s what Kjeldsen has done. He got left out last year not winning and he went out this year determined, working harder than probably anyone on this Tour and got what he deserved. That is the only way forward, hard work.”
Björn has also been putting in plenty of hard work in his quest to regain a place in the World Top Ten and become a genuine contender on the world stage on a more consistent basis.
“I know I have the golf game and think my best game is among the best in the world but I don’t perform my best all the time. I don’t know why. I think the last year I haven’t played enough. I seem to play my best when I get into a routine of playing a lot of tournaments and playing courses I enjoy. I am going into that now, playing nine out of ten weeks and I am looking forward to it.”
Hansen has struggled to replicate his form of 2002 but after a three week break has come back refreshed and raring to go.
“I worked really hard for two weeks so it is not just because Soren has won. Obviously him winning gives is a boost and maybe we should pull out finger out and start playing well. I have struggled with my putting but found something over the last couple of weeks and it makes a change to hole some.”
Howell looked poised to push on from finishing 14th in the Volvo Order of Merit in 2001 but broke his arm early in 2002 and has struggled to reach the same heights since. But having gone back to his old coach and regained his fitness the hard work is starting to pay off, as he showed with a fine seven under par 65 that included a run of seven birdies in the space of eight holes.
“I’ve been working hard and it is getting there, slowly. Hopefully I can continue on the same path. And I am pretty fit. As fit as I have been for a long time. Nice to play without any aches and pains for the first time in about a year. Things are looking up.”
Golding eagled the last to join the group on eight under par, holing a 30 foot putt across the ninth green to complete a two under par 70 to lie two shots off the pace, a score matched by Colsaerts with Lara shooting a 69.
A further shot back is England’s Justin Rose and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, both of whom shot rounds of 69.
The cut fell on one under par with 78 players progressing to the weekend.