He has won in his native Sweden and won in Spain on the European Challenge Tour but Martin Erlandsson has yet to savour the sweet taste of victory on the biggest stage of all, The European Tour. However, the 32 year old gave himself the chance to right that statistic over this weekend when he grabbed the halfway lead in the BMW International Open.
Erlandsson carded a second round 68 to add to his opening 67 at Golfclub München-Nord, Eichenried for a nine under par total of 135, to take a one shot lead over a group of four players, fellow countryman Mattias Erlandsson, Spain’s Alejandro Canizares, Denmark’s Søren Hansen and defending champion David Howell of England.
Erlandsson, whose best finish was a tie for second in last year’s Celtic Manor Wales Open, will also have a new experience to take into the weekend’s action for he has never led outright in a European Tour event, his only experience of pace-setting being a share of the lead after the first round in last year’s Aa St Omer Open. Understandably, he admitted to a few nerves.
“I did start out a little bit intense today but I managed to get an early birdie and from there on I tried to relax and I’ll try to do that tomorrow as well,” he said. “It is an old cliché but I am trying just to concentrate on one shot at a time and not get too far ahead of myself. That’s the key for me I think.”
The leader only made one mistake all day, bogeying the tenth where his approach shot flew left of the green, but outside that he was flawless and embroidered his card with five birdies, his putter more than hot as four of the five birdie putts came from outside 12 feet.
Although he played well, Erlandsson knows he will have to step up a further gear if he is to win one of the most prestigious tournaments on The European Tour International Schedule, as an impressive chasing pack is amassed behind him.
Leading the way in the closest quartet is defending champion Howell, who as well as rediscovering his form at just the right time for his second Ryder Cup appearance in three weeks time, is also keeping alive his hopes of becoming the first player to win the European Tour Order of Merit from wire to wire.
Howell, one of four joint first round leaders, started his second round sluggishly but came to life near the end with three birdies in his last six holes for a 69 to keep alive also his hopes of a memorable BMW title triumph, having won the BMW Championship – The Players’ Flagship at Wentworth Club in May.
While Howell finished well, Hansen, who joined Howell on the eight under par 136 mark, started like a train with four threes in his first five holes, four of them birdies. The winner of the 2002 Irish Open calmed down a bit after that but still managed three further birdies in his 66, a score matched by Eliasson but bettered by one by Canizares, who showed he was still very much in the form which saw him win in The Imperial Collection Russian Open two weeks ago, in only his third European Tour event.
One shot back on seven under par 137 are six players including two men who, like Howell, will be making the trip as part of Ian Woosnam’s European Ryder Cup Team, namely the English duo of Paul Casey and Luke Donald, who carded rounds of 67 and 69 respectively.
Mention of The Ryder Cup is appropriate because the picture as to who will complete Woosnam’s line up on Sunday night became a little clearer as the cut fell.
The bad news for Paul McGinley – currently in the tenth and last automatic qualification spot – was that it fell on him, the Irishman’s disappointing two round total of three over par 147 seeing him miss the cut – which fell at one under par 143 – by four shots.
The good news for McGinley though was the fact that the likelihood of Spaniard José Maria Olazábal replacing him in that vulnerable position increased considerably. For that to happen, of course, Colin Montgomerie needs to finish in the top 47 of the tournament to remove Olazábal from the Ryder Cup World Points List and the Scot carded a second round 68 to move into a share of 12th place at the halfway stage.
The good news for Olazábal however was the fact that of the four players who could theoretically catch him should he find himself in that position, one – England’s John Bickerton – missed the cut, thus ending this year’s Open de France champion’s hopes of his first Ryder Cup appearance.
The man currently in 11th position – England’s Paul Broadhurst – also has a lot to do to achieve his goal of finishing in the top three after a second round 71 left him right on the cut mark of one under par 143 in a share of 61st place.
However, Olazábal might be a little concerned at the position of the two others who, if not on the leaderboard, were certainly on the first page of scores. Denmark’s Thomas Björn, who needs a victory, moved into a share of 29th position on four under par 140 after his second round 69 while Johan Edfors, who needs to finish second, is one shot further back in a share of 42nd place on three under par 141.
It promises to be a nervy weekend’s television viewing for Olazábal and an enthralling one for everybody else.