Welshman Bradley Dredge, South African Andrew McLardy and Marcel Siem of Germany, three players looking for upturn in fortunes, moved into a share of the lead on seven under par 135 at the halfway stage of the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre.
McLardy’s round was the best of the leading trio and indeed the best of the week as he raced around in six under par 65, thanks primarily to his 23 putts, while Dredge and Siem both shot four under par 67s.
Italy’s Francesco Molinari, winner of the Telecom Italia Open earlier in the season, lies a shot further back with the defending champion, Sergio Garcia of Spain, looming ominously on five under par alongside England’s Oliver Wilson and Argentina Rafael Gomez.
McLardy is currently 118th on The European Tour Order of Merit and his round will go along way to securing his playing privileges for another season.
“This was huge.,” said McLardy. “I knew if I could make one more cut I would basically have my card. They say take one shot at a time and don’t think about it but of course you think about it. It is a great confidence boost especially after putting badly in Munich and Holland. It is my lowest round of the year.
“I wanted to get in two or three under to have a shot at a good finish but I wasn’t expecting to be leading.”
Dredge has no such concerns about his card but last week was his first cut in five events since the Smurfit Kappa European Open. Some tinkering with his swing in the middle of the season was to blame and after reverting to his old ways, his renowned consistency seems to have returned, noticeably with a five birdie back nine of 31.
“After Loch Lomond I missed the cut there I said to my coach, Claude Harmon, I wanted to work on a couple of things on my swing and he had a go at it but I missed four cuts in a row.
“Last week I decided to leave the swing alone and go back to what I was doing before and straight away I have seen some results. It is tough, you are trying to improve but it is not always in the swing, it is a culmination of everything.
“I have been working hard on the range and it has been feeling a bit better and while it changes day to day I am obviously pleased with the start.”
Siem has also struggled at times this season but looks to have turned the corner with a fourth place in the EnterCard Scandinavian Masters and joint 13th last week in Munich. Siem credited some of that change in fortune to European Tour Weekly, in which he was featured in July.
“ETW was good fun. You don’t feel like a nobody as you think if people want to talk to you, you must be a good player and maybe that helps give you confidence.
“The beginning of the season was tough for me but since Stockholm is has been good. Minus seven, and I am pretty happy.
“I want to win for sure, I have my card and want to play the Volvo Masters. But I feel like a winner even though it has been a while but I know I can do it.”
Molinari produced a grandstand finish when, after starting at the tenth, he played his last three holes in four under par after eagling short par four seventh and birdieing eight and nine for a round of 68 to lie one off the pace.
Garcia continues to threaten and got off to a flier when he holed a 55 foot putt for eagle on the first. But the Ryder Cup player was just starting a roller-coaster of a round as he bogeyed the next three, birdied the fifth and eventually after much adventure signed for a two under par 69 that left him two off the pace in the group on five under par 137.
“I have to go out and keep giving myself good chances, taking advantage of the par fives,” said Garcia., who has a house overlooking the course. “Hopefully have a lot of eagle putts. I had five today. Some birdies are going to come. But you are hitting really good shots which are not holding the green, it is that tough.”
Meanwhile Michelle Wie’s first event on The European Tour ended in disappointment as she followed her opening 78 with a 79 to finish at 15 over par and at the bottom of the field. When asked what went wrong, she replied: “I don’t know. I am still in shock. I just couldn’t get any of my shots to go today. I don’t know why it was. I don’t even know what sport I was playing today.”
But despite the disappointment she remained determined. “Day’s like this don’t scare me away, the just make me more motivated,” she said.