Paul Lawrie put his injury worries behind him to move into a share of the clubhouse lead with fellow Scot Stephen Gallacher and Australia’s Peter Fowler in the weather-affected second round of the Telefonica Open de Madrid.
Play at the Club de Campo course on the outskirts of the Spanish capital was held up for two hours at the start of the day because of overnight frost, but when it did get underway, the trio wasted no time in nailing their respective colours to the mast, all reaching halfway with a nine under par total of 133.
Because of the delay, the second round was not completed, the bulk of the afternoon starters having to return on Saturday morning to finish off, whereupon the cut will be made and the third round action will commence.
Amongst those is current tournament leader Paul Casey, who carded an opening eight under par 63 and was 13 under par for the tournament through 15 holes of his second round when failing light caused a cessation of play.
First man to post the clubhouse lead was Lawrie who started at the tenth hole, before birdies at the 11th and 15th saw the 1999 Open Golf Champion out in 33. But it was on his inward half that the 34 year old Scot really shone with five birdies in total for his 64, including a superb 40 foot effort over two levels on his final hole, the ninth.
“I now feel the best I have for two or three years,” said Lawrie, whose last European Tour victory came in the 2002 Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open but who has struggled this year to shrug off the effects of groin and neck injuries this season.
With his health in tip-top condition, the Scot has been focusing on getting his putting back to rude health and he succeeded thanks to some tips from his fellow professionals who told him he should be watching the putter, rather than the ball.
“It was something I have always done and when it was working there was no need to change it,” he said. “But when it breaks down, you have got to try something different and I’m keeping my eyes on the ball now. It sounds simple, but it is a difficult thing to do. Today though, I putted great.”
Fellow Scot Gallacher soon joined Lawrie on the same mark with the same two opening rounds of 69-64, the 28 year old nephew of former Ryder Cup Captain Bernard Gallacher hoping to crown a recent move to a new house in his home town of Bathgate with his maiden European Tour victory.
Certainly if the former Scottish Amateur champion can continue in rounds three and four the way he completed round two, he will be a hard man to beat, Gallacher birdieing his final three holes, the seventh, eighth and ninth to complete matching halves of 32.
Joining the tartan twosome in the clubhouse pole was Australian Peter Fowler. Currently 45th on the Volvo Order of Merit, the 44 year old from Sydney is on course for his best finish on the rankings since 1993 and showed why with another consistent performance.
The winner of the 1993 BMW International Open played the course the correct way round and played it in textbook fashion too, not dropping a single shot to par and along the way picking up birdies at the first, third, fourth, 13th and 15th on his way to a flawless 66.
Of the other players who completed their second rounds, nearest challengers are Australia's Nick O'Hern, who carded his second successive 67, and Sweden’s Mårten Olander, who finished in style with a 25 foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole for a 65 and an eight under par total of 134.
It kept alive the 31 year old’s hopes of picking up enough prize money this week to move from his current position of 80th on the Volvo Order of Merit, into the top 60 who will qualify by rights for next week’s season finale, the Volvo Masters Andalucia at Club de Golf Valderrama.
The last time the Telefonica Open de Madrid was won by a home player was when Seve Ballesteros triumphed at Puerta de Hierro in 1989 but Sergio Garcia kept alive the hopes of a repeat.
The 23 year old Ryder Cup player carded a level par second round 71 to remain on seven under par 135, alongside Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, who posted a second round 68.