Friday, 22 June 2012
Joel Sjoholm (-11) - BMW International Open day 2  (Getty Images)
Joel Sjoholm (-11) - BMW International Open day 2 (Getty Images)
Joel Sjöholm holds a two shot lead at the halfway stage of the BMW International Open as the Swede seeks his first European Tour title.

The 27 year old former Challenge Tour graduate lit up Gut Lärchenhof with two eagles and four birdies in a second round 66 to reach 11 under par.

That was two better than overnight joint-leader Fabrizio Zanotti, former Ryder Cup star Paul McGinley and English pair Danny Willett and Chris Wood.

Chilean-born Sjöholm, adopted by a Swedish couple when three months old, was dressed in his now customary plus-fours as he eagled both the 577 yard 16th and 546 yard third for a superb six under par round in the windy conditions in Cologne.

A closing birdie took the World Number 306 clear, and while Sjöholm is relatively inexperienced when it comes to leading European Tour events, he is not being chased by a host of regular winners.

Of the top five, only McGinley has tasted victory on The European Tour – and the last of the Irishman’s four titles came seven years ago.

“Now I saw that I'm up there, and of course it's going to be a new situation for me,” said Sjöholm. “But then I watched a lot of Euro Cup the last two or three weekends, I've seen what happens after four or five minutes, and I'm happy to be on top at the moment - but I would rather be on top on Sunday.

“I'm just enjoying this so much, I don't really think too much about it. It's just a great feeling and a fantastic tournament. I've always played here in Germany, and it was good to play well at the new venue.”

Willett, Wood and Zanotti have racked up six runner-up finishes between them and all will be targeting a breakthrough victory this weekend.

Wood is best known for finishing fifth in the 2008 Open Championship as an amateur and then coming third a year later at Turnberry, while Willett was a team-mate of Rory McIlroy in the 2007 Walker Cup - against an American side that included new US Open Champion Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson.

“It's always nice to put yourself in contention,” said Wood. “Nothing beats it really, and the more and more you can do it, the more chance you have to win and hopefully one will come along.

“The results haven't really backed up the way I've played. I'm finishing top 20 with what I feel is top ten, top-five form really. I’ve just got to stay patient and wait for that to happen.”

Zanotti had shared the first-round lead with Marcus Fraser, but managed only a 71 while the Australian fell five behind with a 74.

“I had a good fight today,” he said. “I had a good start and the back nine, I didn't hit it that good, but I kept going.” 

Local favourite Martin Kaymer, the highest-ranked player in the field, missed the cut, but 54 year old compatriot Bernhard Langer shot 67 and at five under is not out of the hunt yet.

Sjöholm, with a best finish of third in Sicily last year, followed his first eagle with back-to-back bogeys.

But it was a different tale after the second one. He added birdies on the fifth and ninth to go clear in the race for a first prize of €333,330.

Sjöholm’s eagles were far from routine. First he chipped in from heavy rough and then he pitched in from almost 100 yards.

Sergio Garcia's 67 lifted him into a share of 13th on six under alongside, among others, Fraser and England's Andrew Marshall, who won a BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe with a hole-in-one at the 215 yard 17th.

Kaymer three-putted for bogey there and missed out by a single shot like Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1WILLETT, DannyENG18-11
2FRASER, MarcusAUS18-11
T3MCGINLEY, PaulIRL18-10
T3FDEZ-CASTAÑO, GonzaloESP18-10
T3WOOD, ChrisENG18-10
T6STENSON, HenrikSWE18-9
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