Friday, 19 March 2010

While Wimbledon stumbled on through incessant rain delays, the thoughts of those at The K Club on the other side of the Irish Sea were cast back 20 years as a blonde-haired Swede named Edberg announced himself to the sporting world.

The man in question was European Tour Qualifying School graduate Pelle Edberg rather than the two-time Wimbledon tennis champion (1988 and 1990), but the parallels were already being made before the bandana-wearing golfer revealed that his dad’s name is Stefan - although not THAT Stefan!

Edberg the golfer produced some wonderful strokes of his own on the lush grass of the Smurfit Course as he added a second round of five under par 65 to his opening 67, which swept him to the top of the leaderboard on day two of the Smurfit Kappa European Open with a 36-hole total of eight under par 132.

But after the international media had learned all about their surprise leader, one of golf’s most easily recognisable faces moved menacingly into contention as Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, exhibiting some of his best golf for many a year, rolled in seven birdies in a best-of-the-day 64 that moved the eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner within one of Edberg.

Alongside Montgomerie in second place on seven under par is another of Europe’s strongest competitors, Swede Niclas Fasth.

Fasth, winner of the BMW International Open two weeks ago, mixed four birdies with two bogeys for a 68 to tag onto his opening 65.

South African David Frost and in-form Englishman Simon Khan, tied third at last week’s Open de France ALSTOM, moved into a share of fourth place on six under par after rounds of 66 and 67 respectively.

While Edberg headed to his hotel to sleep on the fact that he was in uncharted water as the leader of one of Europe’s biggest tournaments, Montgomerie was in ebullient mood as he contemplated capturing one of the few European Tour titles to have eluded him during his successful career.

“I’ve won the Irish Open three times and it would be nice if I could finally win the European Open. I never played this well when I last won in 2005, nothing like it. The last time I played this well must have been in 1999 when I won six times out here.

“It’s nice that golf enables me to do that. If I was in any other sport, in football or tennis, at 44 years old you’re well gone,” said Montgomerie.

The mention of tennis was apposite with Edberg in front of him. The 28 year old’s six-birdie card included 60 foot putts at the second and eighth holes and came on another windy and raining morning in Co. Kildare.

“I thought I was going to be more nervous when I played today seeing my name popping up the leaderboard, but I stayed pretty calm. Obviously, if there's going to be a crowd out there tomorrow, I may get nervous. I'm not used to that kind of situation,” explained Edberg.

A share of 14th place in Austria and 19th place in last week’s Open de France ALSTOM has whetted Edberg’s appetite and lifted his own expectations. “If the guys told me beforehand that I could have a Top 10, I would have taken it.  Now I am not so sure. Top 10 is always a good result and a good position, but I'm going to do everything I can to be up on the board on the weekend.”

Fasth, a tenacious competitor, will certainly be looking to thwart his compatriot’s ambitions despite suffering from a heavy cold.

“I was pretty knocked after yesterday so it was about getting out there and warming up and getting the blood flowing. I finally got a little scoring going on the back nine and I’ve stayed it contention, so I’m pleased with that,” said Fasth.

“I will try and rest as good as I can and with a little bit of luck I will feel better tomorrow. I am going to give it a good go this weekend and hopefully a few more putts drop.”

In addition to Edberg and Fasth, a further six Swedes are within six shots of the lead and the strong Scandinavian contingent on the leaderboard was bolstered further when Danes Søren Hansen and Søren Kjeldsen finished on three under.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
2FASTH, NiclasSWE18-10
T3HAVRET, GrégoryFRA18-9
T3WALL, AnthonyENG18-9
T3EDBERG, PelleSWE18-9
T3HANSON, PeterSWE18-9
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