Scotland’s David Drysdale produced one of The European Tour’s best ever putting rounds to take control of the Telecom Italia Open at the halfway stage, taking just 20 putts to post a second round score of eight under par 64 and a 13 under aggregate – two strokes clear of the field.
Since The Tour’s statistics service began in 1995, only Ireland’s Padraig Harrington has taken less strokes with the putter in a single round, the Dubliner taking just 19 putts en route to a second round 63 at the 1997 Heineken Classic in Perth, Australia.
Anyone remotely superstitious would not have been surprised by Drysdale’s wonderful performance on the greens of the Castillo de Tolcinasco Golf and Country Club when they discover that his caddie, Bryan Byrne, found a four leaf clover moments after Drysdale had missed a birdie putt from eight feet on his first hole of the day.
After that, the Scot holed everything he looked at, making birdies on the 11th, 12th, 15th, 16th and 17th from distances ranging between two and 20 feet. He then pitched in for par after putting his ball in the water on the 18th, and then saw his good fortune continue on the front nine.
A tap-in birdie on the first was followed by a 25 foot par putt on the third and then a 15 foot birdie on the fourth. And so it continued as his 15 foot effort on the sixth sank below ground. Even when his luck was bad, his putting was exceptional as he proved on the eight where, after finding the water on the 224 yard par three he pitched onto the green and drained a 25 footer for bogey.
A simple ten foot effort for birdie on the ninth green brought the round to a fitting close, and left the Scotsman two strokes clear of the English pair of Phillip Archer and Benn Barham, first round leader Søren Kjeldsen of Denmark and Italy’s own Francesco Molinari.
Drysdale is now eyeing a second win of the 2006 season following his victory three weeks at the European Challenge Tour’s Peugeot Challenge R.C.G. El Prat. He acknowledges the difference between the Challenge Tour and European Tour in terms of pressure and expectation, but is hopeful he can overcome the inevitable nerves and do himself justice over the weekend.
He said: “It’s just such a strange feeling when you are on the green and you just know that they are going to go in. It feels weird. I haven’t struck the ball particularly well today but every time I got within 15 feet it seemed to go in.
“My putting is usually just so hot and cold. I three putted from 12 feet on the 18th last weekend to miss the cut by a stroke and if that had been this week it would have gone in.
“I played great in Barcelona three weeks ago – better than I feel I have done here for the first two rounds. I struck the ball better yesterday and struggled a bit today, but the putter was just dynamite. I think we’ll be keeping the four leaf clover!
“I think my win in Barcelona will stand me in good stead for the weekend but the Challenge Tour and The European Tour are so different. Here you have so many people watching, cameras and everything. On the Challenge Tour you probably have 200 people and I am not saying it’s easy, but I don’t get too nervous on the Challenge Tour but I do out here.
“I get really bad first tee nerves – sometime to the point where I feel physically sick, which is strange but if I get that first tee shot away I am normally fine after that. Everyone gets them but I get them badly. It’s a mental thing but I can’t put my finger on it. I seem to do alright when I’m nervous, though and there’s not much I can do about it. I am sure I’ll be fine.”
It is shaping up to be a thrilling weekend on the outskirts of Milan, with a further four players tied on ten under par, seven on nine under and eight on eight under - including European Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam, who posted an excellent second round 66.