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Friday, 14 September 2012
Richard Bland   (Getty Images)
Richard Bland (Getty Images)
Richard Bland birdied the last three holes of his second round to snatch the halfway lead at the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi.

The 39 year old Englishman is yet to win on The European, but now has a fantastic chance to break his duck at Royal Park I Roveri after a six under par 66 took him to 12 under in Turin.

That is one stroke ahead of France’s Grégory Bourdy, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, South Africa’s Garth Mulroy and Scot Marc Warren.

As well as trying to secure a first title, Bland is also in need of a good week to retain his place on The European Tour for 2013. He currently lies 126th on The Race to Dubai, and only the top 115 keep their cards.

"I've had a tough couple of years, but that's behind me now and I'm just trying to move forward and improve every day,” said Bland, who retained his playing privileges for this season at the 2011 Qualifying School.

“When it wasn't going my way on the front nine, I didn't panic. I knew there were chances out there and it was just a question of waiting. I don't go for the panic button which I might've done five or six years ago.

"There's still 36 holes to go - all it is right now is a great position. There are great players behind me and it's low scoring, so two 70s isn't going to get it done.

“I'll probably have to shoot ten under from here, but that's a good thing. You've got to keep making birdies, you have to keep your foot on the accelerator."

Having birdied the first Bland could have become frustrated when he parred the next nine, but after gains at the 11th and 14th an approach to six feet at the 16th sparked his tremendous finish.

"It was a strange day because I birdied the first then struggled to get anything going,” he added. “I missed a couple of chances and struggled to get the pace of the greens.

"But I holed a nice putt at the 14th for birdie, then hit a couple of shots really close at the 16th and 17th, then hit two great shots at the 18th. It all happened at once really.

"You'd expect in a 66 that you'd hit a lot of really good shots, but I'm hitting a lot of okay shots. I'm not putting myself in any problems, which is great, but on this course you have a lot of short irons and you feel like you should be hitting it close all the time.

"I'm leading and I'm not going to complain, but I feel there's a lot of room of improvement. When you don't feel like you've got your A-game and you're 12 under and leading, it's fantastic. If I can get my swing clicked into place, it should be a good weekend.”

Fernandez-Castaño admitted the advice of Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal had helped his putting in a round of 65.

"Olly (Olazabal) helped me with my putting two years ago, when he recommended that I putt with my feet together,” said the five-time European Tour winner. “Last year I had another tip from a fellow Spaniard, telling me to use the claw grip, and it has made a massive difference.

“I've been working with psychologists too, but it's not until you see the ball rolling into the hole on a regular basis that your confident levels go up and you believe you can putt."

Bourdy’s eight birdie 64 was the best round of the day, while Mulroy and Warren carded 67 and 65 respectively.

England’s Richard McEvoy holds solo possession of sixth on ten under, with overnight leader Joel Sjöholm part of a seven-way tie for seventh after a 71.

Martin Kaymer is the best-placed of the three Ryder Cup players in the field after a 66 left him eight under, one ahead of Francesco Molinari and two clear of Nicolas Colsaerts.

Meanwhile Olazábal made the cut on the mark at four under, as did defending champion Robert Rock.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1FDEZ-CASTAÑO, GonzaloESP18-24
2MULROY, GarthRSA18-22
T3BOURDY, GrégoryFRA18-20
T3MANASSERO, MatteoITA18-20
T5BOYD, GaryENG18-18
T5KAYMER, MartinGER18-18
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