Gregory Havret conjured up a regal finish before a captivated Prince Andrew to round-off a stately procession through the field which culminated in the debonair Frenchman claiming the halfway lead in The Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.
The 27 year old Parisien closed with a pair of stunning birdies for a round of 64 in the company of Australian amateur, Nick Flanagan, and course designer, Tom Weiskopf, to break the log-jam at the top of the leaderboard on 133, nine under par.
The Duke of York was a keen observer as Havret closed out his round, pushing Englishmen David Howell and Ian Poulter and Phillip Price of Wales into second place on 134 with a further eight players jostling for position going into the weekend on 135.
On a day in which day Masters Tournament winner, Phil Mickelson, missed the cut by a stroke on one over par, and 2003 Open Champion, Ben Curtis, was also a victim of the 36-hole axe, Havret collected seven birdies and an eagle in his seven under par round.
He admitted: “It has been a beautiful day, to play with Tom Weiskopf and, although I didn’t see Prince Andrew, I hear he was watching me play. Tom is a really nice guy and helped me quite a bit during the rounds. It’s a great course and I didn’t even know he had designed it before yesterday. It is good to play with one of the legends of the game.”
Havret, winner of the Open de Italia in 2001, found himself one shot clear of the player who won the same title in 2000 and 2002, Poulter, who carded his second successive 67 for an eight under par total of 134.
Poulter, with his sights firmly trained on a place in Europe’s Ryder Cup Team this season, has not put a foot wrong so far this week. The Englishman has kept a bogey-free card for two days running and he said; “It’s always good to have a couple of clean scorecards and to roll in a few putts as well. No mistakes – that’s good.”
Poulter had spent a restless evening tossing and turning and wondering how he might improve his ball striking after his first 67. Within five minutes on the range, he believed he had the answer.
“I felt I was standing too close to the ball and wasn’t releasing the clubhead properly. Within five minutes I knew what was wrong and corrected it. It was much better today but funnily enough I had the same score.”
Sharing that mark with Poulter is fellow Englishman, Howell, who has been a voracious accumulator of prize money in the five years since he won the Dubai Desert Classic, but has yet to add that elusive second title.
Howell, who matched Havret’s 64, admitted: “I suppose I would have imagined I would have won again by now but it hasn’t happened. Technically I am doing everything better now and my levels have come up tremendously. I am doing everything I can in my life to get that little white ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible. I’ve just got to keep the faith.”
After several fast starts this season, following by a mid-tournament dip and usually a strong finish, Howell joked: “I have had a few text messages from friends saying I am suppose to lead at the end of the week rather than the start. That’s just golf. You can only do your best and I know I am a much better player now than in 1999.”
Price, one of the first round leaders, missed a short birdie putt of three feet at the last which would have kept him in pole position alongside Havret, but he had no complaints with a 69 to follow his opening 65.
“I didn’t have my ‘A’ game today but I putted and chipped nicely and got myself out of trouble. Sometimes you have to do that. I don’t think anybody hits it great for all four days and I am pleased with a battling two under. I seem to be in a very good frame of mind. I am very patient and doing some good things.”
Tucked in behind the leaders in the group on seven under par are two past champions in Thomas Björn of Denmark and American Tom Lehman, who won in 1996 and 1997 respectively, while two more Loch Lomond winners, Colin Montgomerie of Scotland and South African, Ernie Els, the defending champion, are on five under and four under respectively.