England’s Jamie Elson and Australian Marcus Fraser set a new course record of seven under par 65 over the amended Moscow Golf and Country Club course at the BMW Russian Open.
That put Fraser on top of the leaderboard with a with an 11 under par second round total of 133 – with Elson one shot back alongside his compatriot David Ryles and Martin Wiegele of Austria on ten under.
Fraser, who has made only one bogey in his 36 holes in Russia, is continuing a rich vein of form that saw him capture the Talma Finnish Challenge on the European Challenge Tour a fortnight ago before his joint 25th finish at the Nordic Open last weekend.
The 25 year old, who also won the Nykredit Danish Open on the Challenge Tour schedule in June, puts that down to the visit to his homeland before he reached Finland, where he ironed out the creases in his game with his coach in Melbourne.
“I’m really happy to have set the course record,” said Fraser, who is currently fourth on the Challenge Tour Rankings. “I’ve played very well the last couple of days. I played just as well same yesterday as I did today but just didn’t make as many putts. I didn’t make one bogey today and had only one yesterday so that’s nice.
“I’m in some good form at the moment. I was 25th on the main Tour last week in Denmark and then I had a win the week before I had the win in Finland so things are going well.
“I suppose that’s down to going back home and working with my coach for two weeks before Finland and I guess that’s paying off now. I didn’t change too much about my game – just kept an eye on my old habits and made a couple of little changes but it feels good.
“I’ve won twice on the Challenge Tour this year and to win a dual ranking event such as this would obviously open up a lot of windows for next year. I just need to keep plugging away and see what happens at the end of the week.”
Elson, a member of the victorious 2001 Walker Cup team that triumphed at Sea Island, Georgia, admitted that he could have gone lower than 65, but was happy with his performance as he seeks his second victory since turning professional in March this year.
“I missed a three foot putt for birdie on 16 but I missed a couple of putts like that today,” he said. “In saying that I had a couple of nice ones from 20 feet and 15 feet so I’m not complaining too much.”
The Kenilworth born 22 year old – son of former European Tour player Pip Elson – is looking to follow the progress of his former Walker Cup team mates such as Luke Donald, Nick Dougherty and Graeme McDowell who have all gone on to establish themselves as three of the most promising British players for a generation.
Elson knows he has the talent to match them – even if it does take a while to shine through his modest exterior.
“I find it quite hard to look at myself and think I’m going to make it and all the rest of it,” Elson continued. “Most of my friends say to me that I’ll get my European Tour card for next year but I tend not to think about all that and just go out and play really.
“I don’t like to put pressure on myself, but I suppose I was able to compete with all those guys I played with in the Walker Cup as an amateur so there’s no reason why I can’t compete with them now.”
Ryles – like Wiegele – supplemented his opening round 68 with a second day 66 and was delighted with his performance, given that he has not been happy with his game for the past few weeks.
“I haven’t been particularly happy with how I’ve been hitting the ball for the last couple of weeks but I know which direction it’s going which helps a lot on the golf course,” said Ryles with a smile.
“That might seem a bit silly – I shouldn’t really worry about how I’m hitting it when I’m scoring well. I think golf’s pretty much all short game now anyway. Most of the guys out here can hit it pretty similar, it’s just whether or not you can make your putts and put your wedges close.”
Wiegele, meanwhile, had to overcome the burden of expectation from his compatriots back home in Austria, where he is widely tipped to one day succeed Tour player Markus Brier as the number one player in his country.
“I played well today and I’m really happy with myself,” said Wiegele. “This is my first experience of The European Tour and I was nervous yesterday when the tournament began.
"I was two over after five holes yesterday and I was a little too nervous to be honest with you. I think I was a little bit too tense because it was my first time here and also because the people back home in Austria have started to compare me with Markus Brier who is the best Austrian player.
“It got to me a little bit because Markus is playing here as well. The last time we played together was at the Tour School where he played very well and I was poor, but I think the fact that I have was not playing in the same group as him helped me a lot!
“But once I started making some birdies and realised that all I should be doing was playing my game and I relaxed after that and made six birdies in total. Then today I played well. I had a birdie at the second then bogeyed the third were I nearly went into the water, but after that I made a good few birdies to finish with a 66.
“I did have some bad shots out there today but I was quite lucky to make those shots at the holes I could afford to and then on the tough holes I played perfectly.”
There are three players tied for fifth place on nine under. Kalle Brink from Sweden, Spainiard José Manuel Carriles and Johan Edfors – also from Sweden – are all on 135.
Scotsman Andrew Coltart, Englishman Mark Davis, Frenchman Renaud Guillard of France and the Swede, Joakim Rask, are a further shot back on eight under par.
A total of 77 players made the weekend cut of two under par, 142.