Australian left hander Richard Green gave credence to the ‘horses for courses’ theory by galloping into a one stroke lead at the halfway stage of the BA-CA Open, presented by Telekom Austria, at Fontana Golf Club.
The 36 year old from Melbourne, a genuine thoroughbred but without the clutch of titles which ought to accompany his elegant game, returned to the venue where he shot the course record of 63 last year and proceeded to reel off rounds of 66 and 65 for an 11 under par total of 131.
Sweden’s Martin Erlandsson lies in second place after a three under par 68 for 132 while two more Swedes – Pelle Edberg and Steven Jeppesen – and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez share third place on nine under par.
Green went on to finish fourth behind local hero Markus Brier 12 months ago, but on the day that the Austrian missed the cut by a shot much to the dismay of the home supporters, it was the 1997 Dubai Desert Classic winner who made his big forward move.
The fact that he hasn’t entered the winner’s enclosure for ten years is a source of irritation to Green, who said: “I’ve got to lift that monkey off my back. I won the Australian Masters in 2004, which was a great achievement, but I would really love to win on The European Tour again. It’s been ten years since Dubai and I will certainly keep trying.”
Green was persuaded to play in Austria by Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, who felt the Australian’s game was perfect for the Fontana layout. He added: “I decided to take Robert’s advice last year and came to Fontana for the first time, played well and fell in love with the place. The course fits my game well, just as Robert predicted. I feel very comfortable…almost like playing at home!”
Jiménez bounced back from the disappointment of failing to qualify for the US Open Championship after firing a flawless 65 to share third place. Jiménez finished tied second in the 2000 US Open behind Tiger Woods but missed out on the second Major of the year at the British qualifier on Monday at Walton Heath in Surrey.
By hitting form in Austria, though, a 14th European Tour title is now in his grasp after a two-year lean spell.
Another Swede, Jarmo Sandelin, first round leader Graeme Storm and two Welshmen, David Park and Garry Houston - the latter equalling the Fontana course record 63 - are four shots back.
Spanish Ryder Cup player Jiménez admitted he was starting to worry about the long gap since his last victory.
"I've been hanging around and had plenty of top tens but you start to think a win is getting more and more away from you," he said. "I hope I'll now be talking about a victory again on Sunday."
Houston started his second round at one over par and, in his own words "knew I need a good one today". he did just that, carding eight birdies in his first 12 holes to even entertain the notion that the elusive 59 was on the cards.
"As soon as I hit my second shot to the par five 18th (his ninth) onto the green, and had a possible putt for 29 out, I said to my caddie that I really fancied the 59 because the greens are so good. I two putted for 30 then birdied the first and third to get to eight under.
I also had a birdie putt at the fifth which would have given me a sniff of the 59 but when I missed I knew my chance had gone.
"Still, this is my personal best on Tour. I've shot seven under a few times in the past but never eight under. If you can crack the greens here, you have a chance."
Edberg, who eschewed his usual colourful bandana due to the intense Austrian heat, is currently on his second spell on The European Tour after losing his card first time around. Now, the Swede believes he is better equipped to handle life on Tour and said: "I've learned a lot since getting my card and I am keeping the ball in play better, which is certainly very important on this course. You can get in a lot of trouble if you miss the fairways."
A week before playing in the US Open, last year's runner-up, Colin Montgomerie, missed the cut. A second round three over par 74 left the Scot five over for the two rounds, outside the cut mark. He said:
"I'm hitting the fairways but nothing is happening and I can't make a score."
Despite a birdie at the last, Brier shot a two over par 73 to miss the cut along with Montgomerie and another Ryder Cup player in Darren Clarke, whose visit to water at the final hole cost him a bogey six and the chance to play at the weekend. Like Brier, the Irishman finished at one over par.
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