David Park continued to stamp his authority on Fuerteventura Golf Club when an excellent second round 65, to add to his opening 64, gave him a four shot lead at the halfway stage of the Canarias Open de España.
The Welshman, looking for his second European Tour success to follow his maiden victory in the 1999 Compaq European Grand Prix at Slaley Hall in the north of England, ended the first two days on 11 under par 129, four shots clear of Frenchman Christian Cévaër and five ahead of Sweden’s Peter Hedblom.
Park only dropped one shot, at the short fourth when his tee shot found a greenside bunker, but he more than made amends for that error with six birdies elsewhere, including on both the course’s par fives, before revealing that work done with his coach and Sky Television commentator Tim Barter, had begun to pay dividends.
“We have been working over the winter and in the past few weeks on my takeaway really,” said Park. “Trying to keep it one piece and smooth. I tend to hinge my wrists which can be a problem. It is something I have done ever since I started playing golf really. We have made great leaps but it still tends to regress sometimes.
“We had a week off after Portugal and we started working on it really then but it is something I have to do for the rest of my life really because old habits die hard, don’t they? It is one of the first things that I worked on with Tim when we started together. We have made great progress but I tend sometimes to go back to instinct if I don’t monitor it.”
Nearest challenger to the Welshman is Frenchman Christian Cévaër who carded a 67 for a seven under par total of 133 before admitting that a new and positive attitude allied to a natural ability to hit the ball low under the wind had assisted his quest to win his first European Tour title.
On the Canary Island, whose name literally means strong (fuerte) wind (ventura), lived up to its moniker again in the second round, the swirling breeze ensuring that all competitors had to be on their guard at all times. But Cévaër was equal to the task and two dropped shots were more than compensated for with five birdies elsewhere.
“You have to be philosophical in golf and especially me because I am easily frustrated,” said Cévaër. “I suffered a lot of frustration last week and so I set out this week to, wherever possible, take the game for what it has to offer, and not to simply see what it is not giving you all the time.”
Such an attitude stood him in good stead in the first round when a drive out of bounds at the sixth could have cost him dearly. But instead of losing the head, he knuckled down and made a three with his second ball to escape with a bogey five.
It was a resolve which resurfaced in round two when bogeys at the eighth and tenth looked like undoing the good work of birdies at the third, fifth and seventh. But again Cévaër refused to be unnerved and immediate birdies at the 11th and 13th, the latter courtesy of a pitch-in from 20 feet, put the Frenchman back on the right track.
“I chipped in for eagle yesterday and another for birdie today so these are nice things to get,” he said. “With this wind, you are going to have your share of holes where it is not easy so there are times where you have to hang in there and accept it is not always going to go your way. You work hard in this job and go through a lot of frustrating stretches, so you should really welcome any success you have.”
Third placed Hedblom went one better than Cévaër with a second round 66 for a six under par total of 134, a round which his caddie, John Dempster, described as one of his best in the ten years he had been his bagman.
While not wanting to commit himself fully to such a pronouncement, the 34 year old Swede did admit he was very happy with a round which left him in a good position to aim for his second European Tour title over the weekend.
“It was a lot better than it has been, a very solid round especially in these conditions because it is pretty tricky, you need to keep the ball in play to give yourself a chance but it was pretty solid,” said the Swede.
“I think an important thing today was patience because you know it is going to be hard to get close to a lot of the flags and you have to play away from the holes sometimes but I felt I had very good control with my irons and gave myself a lot of chances so my approach shots were the key today.”
Four players – David Lynn, Henrik Nystrom, Jean-Francois Remesy and Marcel Siem – shared fourth on five under par 135, but the honour of the round of the day was shared by two players, Julien Clement of Switzerland and Frenchman Gregory Havret who both broke Park’s first round course record 64 with respective 63s of their own to leap from 85th place at the start of the day to a share of eighth on four under par 136.
Clement, whose father runs a golf magazine in Switzerland, made sure of his own headlines with three birdies and two eagles in his round, the more spectacular of the latter being an eagle two at the 359 yard 11th where he holed his lob wedge approach shot, while Havret featured one eagle and five birdies.
But while they celebrated, there was disappointment for the home spectators when one of the pre-tournament favourites, José Maria Olazábal, missed the cut which fell at three over par 143, after carding a second round 75 for a six over par total of 146.
Once again putting was the problem for the two time Masters Champion, taking 37 putts, as was the second and the 12th holes where he made triple bogey seven and double bogey five respectively. “When you shoot five over par and just miss two greens that tells its own story doesn’t it?” he said.