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Friday, 28 April 2006

(Reuters) - Former British Amateur Champion Graeme Storm put himself in sight of a maiden European Tour title on Friday when the Englishman led the Andalucia Open de España Valle Romano by a stroke at the halfway stage.

Storm birdied his last three holes to retain the top place he had shared after the first round with Portugal’s Jose-Filipe Lima, carding a five under par 67 to move to 12 under par 132.

Storm's playing partner Robert Karlsson holed in one at the fourth on his way to breaking the San Roque New Course record by a shot with a 63, to be one of five players sharing second place. Alongside the Swede on 11 under par 133 are the English duo of John Bickerton and David Griffiths, South African Titch Moore and Carl Suneson, the leading Spaniard. 

Earlier Denmark’s Thomas Björn shot 64 to break the course record set originally by Storm and Lima, to lie two strokes off the pace and kick-start what has been a difficult season.

After Storm won the British Amateur title in 1999 and played in Great Britain and Ireland’s winning Walker Cup team the same year, much was expected of the 28 year old, but he had found little success until finishing tied second in last year’s Smurfit European Open.

Now he can complete a turnaround in his career with a first victory.

“I think most people thought as British Amateur Champion you should go on to great things, but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Storm. “And maybe I made too many changes when I turned pro.

“Losing my card in 2002 was probably the kick up the backside I needed and everything’s turning round now. Finishing second in the European Open was massive for me, more financially than anything.”

Storm benefited from a late collapse by Björn at The K Club last year for his runner-up spot. The Dane ran up an 11 at the penultimate hole to crash off the leaderboard and boost Storm’s winnings.

Björn is battling back after recurring neck problems which flared up in early February and caused him to miss what he considered a vital stage of the year.

 “After the Dubai Desert Classic I went five weeks to The Players’ Championship when I literally didn’t touch a club and it wasn’t much fun because you feel like you are losing out. It’s a time when players get themselves ready for the big tournaments. But today was one of those days when golf seemed easy,” said the former Ryder Cup player, who shares seventh spot on ten under par with José Manuel Lara of Spain and Sweden’s Fredrik Widmark.

Australian David Bransdon also holed in one, acing the eighth to shoot a 65 and lie in a group of nine players on eight under that includes Colin Montgomerie of Scotland and defending champion Peter Hanson of Sweden.

A total of 75 players survived the halfway cut, which fell at three under par.

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