Friday, 05 September 2003
Defending champion, Robert Karlsson of Sweden, tightened the screw in his attempt to lead all the way in the Omega European Masters for the second successive year at Crans-sur-Sierre when he added a four under par 67 to his opening 65 for a ten under par halfway total of 132.

It was all eerily reminiscent of 12 months earlier when Karlsson shot 65-66 to open up a four stroke lead after two rounds. This time he just missed emulating that mark by one shot while his advantage is just one from Argentinian Eduardo Romero, the 2000 champion, who matched the Swede’s 67 for an aggregate of 133.

A further stroke behind are three champions from The 2003 European Tour International Schedule, Michael Campbell of New Zealand and South Africans Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman.

Karlsson, who was 34 on the eve of the tournament, made light of his immense achievement in leading the same event for six consecutive round. He shrugged: “I haven’t really thought about it. I have just gone out and played and enjoyed the course. It’s easy to drop shots here do you have to take things as they come.

“I made a double bogey five at the third hole but didn’t let it worry me. You know there are plenty of birdie chances out there so you have to be patient and wait for things to happen. Frankly, I would be happy to lose the lead tomorrow just as long as I reclaimed it on Sunday night!”

Romero, who also registered a wire-to-wire victory three years ago, picked up five birdies and dropped just one shot as he again struck a telling blow for those golfers counting down the weeks and months to their 50th birthday and the dawn of a new career on the Seniors Tour.

Still youthful and energetic at 49, Romero admitted: “I played fantastic – better than yesterday. I am hitting the ball very solidly and have a lot of confidence in what I am doing. I am playing better each day and I like my position for the weekend.”

Els played “scrappy” golf, according to the World Number Two in a round of 69 which kept him handily placed going into the weekend. He said: “I am still in it. I feel quite happy with the way things have gone and I am looking forward to the weekend.”

Campbell and Immelman showed the benefit of nursing a sense of grievance as they fired 67 and 66 respectively to join Els on eight under par. Both were overlooked by Gary Player, captain of the International Team for November’s Presidents Cup contest against the United States in South Africa.

Player selected KJ Choi of Korea and South African Tim Clark as his wild cards, and Campbell conceded: “It is part of my motivation. I want to try to win every tournament between now and the Presidents Cup to try to prove a point, not only to Gary but myself as well. That’s the most important thing.”

Immelman endorsed Campbell’s sentiments after a round which included four birdies in the last seven holes. He commented: “We are both disappointed but at the end of the day we should have played our way into the team. I don’t think we can blame Gary for the decisions he made.

“But yes, absolutely, I do feel I have a point to prove but more to myself. The Presidents Cup was probably one of my biggest goals of the year, especially being at Fancourt just two and a half hours drive from where I was born. That was a bitter pill to swallow”.

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