Australian Richard Green moved a step closer to a second European Tour title when he pulled three strokes clear of the field at the halfway stage of the KLM Open with a seven under par 63 at Hilversumche Golf Club in The Netherlands.
That took the left hander to 12 under par 128, just one stroke outside the tournament record set by Germany’s Tobias Dier in 2002, as he stretched his lead over England’s Andrew Raitt, who lies on nine under par, and three players on seven under par.
Green won his only European Tour title to date in 1997 when he captured the Dubai Desert Classic but has come close to adding that elusive second title on a number of occasions, notably with back to back runners-up finishes in the Open de France and Smurfit European Open.
Despite losing his way slightly around the Open, Green has found his rhythm once again to put himself in the ideal position to capture that second title.
“It is a position I have not been in before, leading by a long way,” said Green. “You want to lead on Sunday. The main objective is to make sure I am in the same position on Sunday and bring home that second title.”
Lying 16th in the Volvo Order of Merit, Green is enjoying his best season on The European Tour and has his sights firmly set on a place in the top 15 to secure a place in next year’s Major Championships.
His nearest challenger is Raitt, who maintains he will still call time on his European Tour career at the end of the season despite a battling 67 that included an eagle three on the last. Raitt lost the tip of the little finger on his left hand in 1995 when he was bitten by a dog and faces a massive legal bill after an unsuccessful court battle for substantial damages.
But with the help of a new swing aid, the “Targetline – Swing Builder” which he has recently launched with his partners in The 15th Club company, he is able to work on his pivot and negotiated the Hilversumche course to great effect.
“Today was a bit of a struggle,” said Raitt. “I didn’t play that well and made a really good putt on the tenth for par when I was having a dodgy patch. Then got a bit of momentum, made four up 11th and birdies 12th and 13th and it becomes a little easier after that. Missed chances at the 15th, 16th, and 17th, from only about five feet so I was pleased to see the one drop on the last.”
The putt on the last was significantly longer than five feet, rattling home his eagle putt from 35 feet.
That took him three clear of overnight leader David Lynn, the Englishman birdieing the last two for a level par 70 and seven under par 133, compatriot Miles Tunnicliff, who shot a 66, and Swede Per Nyman (67).
The race for Ryder Cup points is set to gather pace over the weekend with the four protagonists in the field all comfortably in the running. David Howell, eighth in the combined Ryder Cup points list, battled to finish on level par, making up for three dropped shots with three birdies, but he will have some way to go to catch the other three.
Graeme McDowell moved up to a share of tenth place on four under par, two adrift of McGinley and Poulter who shot 69 and 67 respectively to lie in a share of sixth place.
“All in all a good day,” said Poulter, ninth in the Ryder Cup table. “I am very comfortable, I’m happy with the way I am hitting it and there are not many ahead of me at the top of the leaderboard. My position is fine. I think I can chase the leaders down and have a good weekend.”
McGinley recovered from a bogey-bogey to get back in the hunt but was disappointed with the finish when he bogeyed the 15th after failing to extricate himself from the right hand bunker and then failing to make birdie on the last after a wayward tee shot.
The cut fell at two over par with the defending champion Maarten Lafeber of the host country among those missing out.