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Friday, 10 October 2003
A change to the belly putter for the first time paid dividends for Fredrik Widmark as the Swede swept to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the Dutch Open at Hilversumche Golf Club, a second round 66, four under par, taking him two clear of the field on nine under par 131.

Widmark is coming to the end of his rookie season on The European Tour after successfully graduating from the Challenge Tour but knows he needs to pull something out of the bag if he is to lift himself from his current position of 146th in the Volvo Order of Merit into the top 115 to retain his playing privileges for next season.

It has been a tough few months for the 27 year old from Hasselholm as, after a promising start to the season which included a joint seventh finish in the Italian Open Telecom Italia where he led at the halfway stage, he struggled over the summer months and slipped down the Volvo Order of Merit. But all is not lost as he seems to raise his game come autumn.

"All through my career I have played well spring and fall but summer hasn’t been that great,” he said. “That has been the case this year as well so I hope for a good strong finish. The goals are clear, I know what I have to do and that makes you focus on the things you need to do.”

After three putting the first Widmark managed to find his range with the putter, holing significant birdie putts on the second and third and he was up and running, picking up a further four birdies in his last 11 holes to set the target.

Denmark’s Steen Tinning briefly drew level with Widmark after following an eagle three on the 12th with birdies at the 17th, 18th and second holes but fell back with bogies at the fourth and sixth holes for a round of 67 to lie in a five way tie for second on seven under par 133. Afterwards the Dane, who has been suffering from severe back problems, confirmed he would be retiring from The European Tour after defending his Telefonica Open de Madrid title in a fortnight as the pain in his back has become too much to maintain a tournament schedule.

Included in that group on seven under is Austrian Markus Brier, currently right on the bubble in the race to retain his European Tour card in 116th place in the Volvo Order of Merit. With a start in Madrid looking unlikely on his current category ranking, he has set himself a target of a top ten finish this week to solve all his problems. A five under par 65, taking him to seven under par 133 and two shots off the lead, did his cause no harm at all.

“Today was a very important round,” said Brier. “It was a similar situation last year. I was a bit further down but played all right the last two weeks so maybe I need a bit more pressure. I have been hitting it well the last four or five weeks and it just hasn’t come off and I hope I can pull it off for all four rounds this week.”

Also on seven under par is Gordon Brand Jnr after the Scot moved into contention over the weekend with a second round 66, four under par. Brand Jnr has won eight times in his European Tour career, victories which have helped him to his current position of 30th in the Career Money List. With the top 40 earning Category 9 Membership of The European Tour for next season, Brand Jnr knows his card his safe for next year even if he remains outside the top 115 in the Volvo Order of Merit.

“I have been playing very poor for a few years now,” he said. “It is nice that I have that Career Money category but it would be nice to retain my card through the Volvo Order of Merit.”

Swede Fredrik Andersson, who shot a four under par 66 which included an eagle and four birdies, and Dane Søren Hansen (65) completed the group of five players on seven under par 133.

Joint overnight leaders Jamie Donaldson of Wales and Ireland’s Gary Murphy are a further shot adrift on six under par alongside Paul Eales, whose 65 equalled the best of the day, and another Englishman David Lynn.

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