Friday, 29 August 2003
Robert Karlsson put himself in pole position to claim a second BMW International Open title after firing an eight under par 64 to move to 15 under par 129 and open up a two shot lead at Golfclub München Nord-Eichenried.

Karlsson, winner of the title in 1997 after a play-off, took full advantage of the benign morning conditions before rain and thunderstorms in Munich disrupted the afternoon play to pull clear of overnight leader Raphael Jacquelin of France with Karlsson’s fellow Swede Peter Hedblom and England’s Gary Emerson a further shot back on 12 under par.

Not for the first time, Karlsson is hitting peak form in late summer – next week he defends his Omega European Masters title in Switzerland – though this time he attributed his success to his dominance of the par fives as he reached ten under par for the long holes alone over the first two days thanks to two eagles today.

He reduced the 555 yard 11th hole, albeit wind assisted, to a drive and an eight iron to 12 feet to set up his first eagle but had to rely on a stroke of luck for his second eagle on the sixth hole. Having pulled his drive in the left rough he need to hook his five iron round the trees, a shot he pulled off with some comfort, hitting the ball to 20 feet and converting the eagle putt.

Those two eagles were interspersed by five birdies and just the one bogey spoiling his card on his penultimate hole.

“This course is set up for a long hitter and if you play the par fives well you have the chance of a good score,” said Karlsson, winner of five European Tour titles. “It is easy to get frustrated when everyone else is shooting low scores so you need to stay patient and take you chances. I have played the par fives extremely well, ten under for the par fives, which certainly helps your score.”

After opening with a stunning course-record equalling 62, Jacquelin was considerably more subdued with a three under par 69 to move to 13 under par but was nevertheless pleased with his efforts. It is never easy to follow a low score with another but the Frenchman, chasing his first Tour victory, kept himself well placed going into the weekend with the help of an eagle, two birdies and one dropped shot.

“It was a good day for me,” said Jacquelin. “The conditions were a lot more difficult to yesterday. I played the par fives well except the three putt on the last. But I holed some as well and I am well up there.

“It is always difficult to play after a 62 because you made so many birdies, you expect them like the day before. But you still feel confident and I am looking forward to the weekend”

Hedblom continued his good form of 2003 with a second 66 to move to 12 under par 132 and once again put himself in position to challenge for the title. Twice this year he has been denied in a play-off, beaten by Kenneth Ferrie on the Open de Espana and by Michael Campbell in the Nissan Irish Open, but after missing most of last season with a broken leg is more than happy with his season. After missing four cuts at the start of the year he finished fifth in Qatar and has not looked back.

“That was an important week for me,” he said. “That fifth place gave me a lot of confidence and then I lost a play-off a couple of weeks later. Even last year when I only played a few events I felt I played them well. The previous season was a good year when I got my card back and I have kept that confidence going and now it feels really good.

“Now I want to win one quickly. It is so different when you play with more confidence. You have more money, have your card and now your goals are to try to climb higher up the Volvo Order of Merit to get into some bigger events next year. Try and get into the top 20 and get into the Open Championship. I have always been an up and down player but if I can keep playing on an even keel it will show I am playing better.

“Before the tournament I had two weeks off but now after two good rounds it feels good. If I can keep going it could be interesting.”

Emerson followed his opening 64 with a four under par 68 to join Hedblom on 12 under par and among those players gathering a shot further back is Lee Westwood, the Englishman showing signs of the form which helped him win the 2000 Volvo Order of Merit.

Westwood’s score was matched by Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher while defending champion Thomas Björn is well placed to mount an attack over the weekend on ten under par 134 as he chases his third BMW International title in four years.

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