Despite more favourable weather conditions Aa St Omer Golf Club still provided a stern test, with leader Christian Nilsson of Sweden one of only two players under par at the half-way stage of the SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by NEUFLIZE OBC.
Nilsson’s blistering morning round of 64 equalled the course record held jointly by England’s Jamie Little and Australia’s Brett Rumford.
The Swede, who finished seventh at the recent Methorios Capital Italian Open and 25th at last week’s Bank Austria GolfOpen presented by Telekom, plundered seven birdies in benign playing conditions to move to three under par, two shots clear of his nearest challenger John Morgan of England.
Rumford went on to take the title in 2003, but Nilsson – who shares coaches with his compatriot Anika Sorenstam – is not putting any pressure on himself to follow in the Australian’s footsteps.
He said: “I feel really good at the moment. I had a lot of fun out there today, and not just because I played well. I’m not putting any pressure on myself. I’ll just go out there and play my game, and hopefully the results will come.
“I’m feeling fairly refreshed at the moment, particularly after Sweden beat Greece 2-0 in the European Championships. I watched the game, and they played well, so it was a good win. I’ll be watching them play against Spain in the next match. It will be a tough game, but I hope they can get through.”
With England’s failure to reach Euro 2008, Morgan – who shot a 72 – should be able to concentrate solely on his golf. But like Nilsson, he recently became a father, meaning he has been somewhat preoccupied away from the course of late.
Morgan said: “It’s all about nappies for me at the moment. I’ve been scouring the internet for deals on car seats and cots, so that kind of takes my focus away from golf a little bit – which is probably a good thing. When I wake up and my baby daughter smiles at me first thing in the morning, it’s the best feeling in the world. I just melt.”
Morgan is trailed by one shot by the South American duo of Alexandre Rocha and Marco Ruiz, who carded rounds of 67 and 68 respectively. Rocha in particular credited an improved putting performance as the reason behind his upturn in fortunes.
The Brazilian said: “I wasn’t expecting to shoot a 67 today – I was more worried about just making the cut. I wanted to get a positive feel, and I certainly did that.
“The key was that I putted well today, which I haven’t done for about seven or eight months. That takes a lot of pressure off my long game, because I feel like I don’t have to hit the ball close to the hole with my approach shots to make birdies. But I didn’t feel comfortable with my driver, which is most unlike me. So hopefully it all comes together over the weekend.”
Another player on level par and with aspirations of winning is Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin, who is in need of a high finish this week after buying a new house recently.
He said: “It’s a big week for me, and I’m looking for a big performance. Obviously the money matters to me, mainly because I’ve just bought my first house, so I need a big cheque to keep up with the mortgage repayments. It’s only a fairly small place, but the mortgage is massive!”
Maybin’s fellow Irishman Paul McGinley has no such financial concerns, but the Ryder Cup star again struggled with his game, another trio of three putts costing him dearly as he missed the cut with a round of 75.
David Drysdale, however, enjoyed an upturn in fortunes, having fallen down a hole on the seventh hole yesterday. The Scot posted six birdies en route to a round of 66 which leaves him on two over par.