Friday, 19 March 2010
Omega European Masters - Round Two  (Getty Images)
Omega European Masters - Round Two (Getty Images)

South African Thomas Aiken takes a one stroke lead into the weekend at Crans-sur-Sierre after producing a superb seven under par round at the Omega European Masters.

The 26 year old advanced to ten under for the week and put himself in the perfect position to strike for a maiden European Tour title.

With first round leader Brett Rumford following up his dazzling, opening 62 with only a 73 and Simon Dyson's 71 eight shots worse than the previous day, it was all change at the top.

Aiken, joint eighth in The Open Championship in July and six times a winner in his home country, is a shot ahead of Wales’ Bradley Dredge and Spanish Ryder Cup star Miguel Angel Jiménez.

“I started with a birdie on the first and it makes quite a big difference. I played solid golf like yesterday but a few more putts went in,” said Aiken.

“There are a few short par fours on the front nine and I managed to drive two of them. The birdies there were two putts so it makes it a lot easier. Hit a lot of greens and gave myself a lot of chances.”

Two days into the 12 month race for Ryder Cup places, the 36 year old Dredge makes no secret of his desire to be part of Colin Montgomerie's side - in Wales, of course.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and my intention is to get into that team," said Dredge, after a second round 65 in Switzerland.

"For me, The Ryder Cup is my goal. That's it - I'm looking at starting a year long new season from this week onwards."

Crans-sur-Sierre is the scene of former World Cup winner Dredge's last victory three years ago - he won by eight - and 12 months after that, he missed out on a play-off by only one shot.

Now it could be the place where he not only secures his European Tour card for another season, but starts to turn his dream into a reality.

Only last week Montgomerie said he would "like a Welsh involvement" in the attempt to win back the trophy off the Americans.

Six behind Australian Rumford after his opening 68, he had three birdies on each half in the second group of the day.

"Conditions were close to perfect," he added. "Luckily the rain and snow that people were talking about didn't happen."

Jiménez, twice a runner-up in the event, did have to contend with showers - rain, not snow, although that may be to come. But he stayed in the hunt with a 68.

Dyson, KLM Open champion in The Netherlands two weeks ago, dropped to fourth alongside fellow Englishman Ross McGowan, Ireland's Paul McGinley and Filipino Angelo Que, part of the 35-strong Asian Tour contingent in this first co-sanctioned event in Europe.

Jiménez is one four members of last year's Ryder Cup side in the tournament, and the other three - Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Oliver Wilson - all stand four under.

So does Rory McIlroy, chasing a win that would take him top of The Race to Dubai for the first time.

Also on the same mark are 16 year old Italian Matteo Manassero, youngest ever winner of the British Amateur title in June and then a spectacular 13th at Turnberry, and 19 year old New Zealander Danny Lee - who in February became The European Tour's youngest winner.

Dredge was paired with Manassero and Lee and realised that their combined age was less than his own.

It might have made him feel old, but he should remember that Tom Watson was 60 today - and look what he did in The Open Championship.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-20
2DREDGE, BradleyWAL18-18
3McGOWAN, RossENG18-17
4JIMÉNEZ, Miguel AngelESP18-15
5JAIDEE, ThongchaiTHA18-14
6SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-13
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