Swede Peter Hedblom overtook Paul McGinley to surge three shots clear at the top of the BMW Championship leaderboard as both players sparkled in the blazing sunshine at Wentworth Club.
On the hottest day of the year, Hedblom and McGinley were on fire as they tore round the famed West Course in 65 and 64 respectively to head the field at the halfway stage. Hedblom lies in pole position on 11 under par 133 with McGinley three adrift on eight under par 136.
Australian left-hander Nick O’Hern carded 69 to lie a further shot back while Irishman Padraig Harrington and Swede Peter Hanson are also firmly in contention at six under par.
A stunning burst of five successive birdies around the turn propelled Hanson into the lead and he forged further ahead with birdies at the 16th and 17th to move to 11 under par. His 36 hole total was just one shot outside the Championship record and he becomes the first Swede to lead the Championship since 1998. It is also the first time he has led a European Tour event since the 1996 Moroccan Open, an event he went on to win.
“Hopefully that’s a good omen,” said Hedblom.
“Sometimes things just run your way. That’s what happened today. Hopefully it can continue for another two rounds.”
Hedblom has made a remarkable recovery since breaking his leg in an ice hockey accident in December 2001 and missing much of the 2002 season. But since then his game has steadily improved to the level where he is again challenging for top honours.
Early in the day McGinley came within a stroke of the Wentworth West Course record with a faultless eight under par 64, containing an eagle and six birdies, as he moved to eight under par 136, setting a target that stood for most of the day until Hedblom’s heroics.
“Any time you shoot a score like that around Wentworth you have got to be happy,” said the Dubliner. “If ever there was a comfortable 64, that was it. I hit every green in regulation apart from the first which I only missed by a couple of inches and hit a couple of par fives in two.
“I played Wentworth the way it should be played – course management, strategy, good shot-making, knowing what pins to go for, what pins to hit away from. To me that should be the future of golf.”
McGinley commended some of the tough pin positions in place on the West Course, calling for more courses on The European Tour to be set up like this week.
“I saw some pin positions out there today which I have never seen at a European Tour event before and all credit to the Tour. It’s great to see because when I go and play in the US Open, that’s the pin position I get and it’s great to see.”
McGinley wrote his name in the history books when he holed the winning putt in The 2002 Ryder Cup at The De Vere Belfry and played an integral part again last September at Oakland Hills in the Europe’s record victory. He has three victories to his credit and is now well in contention in The European Tour’s flagship event.
“This is a world event if you ask me. It is a tremendous event. We can be proud of ourselves. We’ve come a long way as The European Tour. We have some great events coming up in the next few weeks, huge amounts of money and very good golf courses. I want to be part of that.”
A shot further back was O’Hern, the World Number 31 posting a three under par 69 to lie four off the pace at the halfway stage.
O’Hern is one of the most consistent players in world golf and continues to knock on the door for a maiden victory. With the fast running fairways and firm greens, the West Course is playing like the courses of Australia where he learnt the game. “The firmer the better as far as I am concerned,” he said.
“That’s pretty much as good as I can hit the ball from tee to green,” added O’Hern, who has finished runner-up five times on The European Tour. “I had 34 putts today for a 69, so it’s just a matter of getting the ball in hole.”
Harrington shot a 68 despite almost pulling out before he even got started suffering from his perennial neck problems while Hanson, winner of the Jazztel Open de España at San Roque last month, shot a second successive 69 to join Harrington on the six under par mark.