Friday, 24 June 2005
Eduardo Romero smashed the course record at Le Golf National with a stunning nine under par 62, making light of his 50 years to lead the Open de France at the halfway stage.

Romero moved to ten under par 132, after playing 27 holes in the day having also completed his delayed first round, and leads by two strokes from home favourite Jean Van de Velde, the first round leader, Jonathan Lomas and Soren Hansen. Should he go on to win he will comfortably become the oldest winner on The European Tour.

His 62 equals his lowest return on The European Tour although at 50 years of age he becomes the oldest player to shoot such a score. His first nine holes of 29 was also the lowest in a European Tour career that has brought eight victories.

With his 51st birthday coming up on July 17, Romero put himself in prime
position to win the tournament nearly three years older than Irishman Des Smyth was when he won the 2001 Madeira Island Open.

The Argentine won the 2002 Barclays Scottish Open when only three days away from his 48th birthday and if he can clinch the French title 14 years after he won at the same National course, Romero would enjoy several other bonuses.

First prize of €583,330 is the richest in continental Europe, he would gain a two-year exemption from the end of this season and would automatically qualify for The Open Championship by way of place on the Major's mini order of merit which concludes this week.

Romero can even finish second in France and bypass 36 holes Open qualification at Sunningdale on Monday.

"I managed to qualify last year at Sunningdale in a playoff but it's another year on now and it might be too much for me," said Romero. "So I want to win here."

Friday's round, in which a 40-foot putt lipped out on the final hole to deny him a European career-best, represented a complete change in fortunes for the Argentine veteran who had missed five cuts in six starts this year.

He put his reason for such a dramatic change down to yoga and his ability to cope with high humidity in Versailles after losing six kilos in weight.

"I didn't do yoga for three or four months but I came back to it three weeks ago and it has made a big difference mentally," he said.

His run of missed cuts had been down to putting badly and another reason for his 62 was using the unusual ploy of staring at a picture of a golf hole on his bedroom wall and imagining the ball finding it time after time.

Van de Velde, recovering from three years injury and two reconstuctive knee operations, had to wait until mid-afternoon before defending his lead because of the previous day's thunderstorm which halted play early. The Frenchman battled hard to avoid flagging at the end of his round as he tries to salvage his career and he said: "It was a never-ending day; I was running out of steam."

But despite first tee nerves when 3,000 of his countrymen turned up on the first tee to cheer him on, Van de Velde managed to negotiate the tough Albatross course in one under par to remain very much in the hunt for his national title.

Lomas bogeyed his last hole, the ninth at Le Golf National, after missing the green with a wedge but remained update about his performance.

Hansen also had a couple a blips during his round, notably when he double bogeyed the 15th after finding water with his nine iron approach, but with 36 holes remaining continues to challenge for his second European Tour title.

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