Friday, 05 July 2013
Fabrizio Zanotti  (Getty Images)
Fabrizio Zanotti (Getty Images)
Fabrizio Zanotti hopes to relish the challenge of holding the halfway lead at the Alstom Open de France.

The 30 year old from Paraguay, who has three times been a runner-up but is yet to win on The European Tour, fired a second consecutive 68 to lead by one at Le Golf National.

Three birdies in an outward 33 took Zanotti to six under par for the week and into the lead, and one bogey and a single birdie on the back nine kept him ahead of South African Richard Sterne and Danes Thomas Björn and Søren Kjeldsen.

“I’m very happy,” said Zanotti. “I struggled a little from the tee but I putted very well during the day and pretty happy with the round. It was pretty tough out there, and the course is playing very hard, so very happy. 

“I think it's a very good score, so I will try to keep playing like this and just have fun. 

“I haven’t played very well during the year, but I'm working very hard and I think this is because of all the work; I am always positive. 

“It's pretty tough to keep working when you are not playing good, but that is the way all the guys play good, so you have to keep working to get where you want. 

“On a course like this, I think that you have to accept everything. It's playing very tough and the greens are getting hard, so it's going to be very hard. Like I said, keep patient and have fun - there is no other way.”

After fog at Le Golf National outside Paris meant a one-hour delay this morning, Björn had wasted little time in overtaking overnight leader Anders Hansen with three birdies in his first five holes and was two clear of the field with two holes to play.

However, bogeys at the eighth and ninth meant he had to settle for a second round of 69 to finish five under.

Björn's playing partner Graeme McDowell was a shot behind after a second consecutive 69, with Scotland's Stephen Gallacher and 2007 winner Graeme Storm also safely in the clubhouse on four under after rounds of 70 and 68 respectively.

Starting from the tenth, Björn had birdied his opening hole and then holed from eight feet on the 13th and just two feet on the par five 14th, where McDowell's ball was already nestled just inches from the cup.

A poor bunker shot on the 18th cost Björn a bogey five, but he hit back with birdies on the third and fifth before another visit to sand on the eighth produced a bogey four and three putts on the par five ninth compounded his frustration.

Sterne, already a winner on home soil this season, birdied three of his last four holes for a 69.

“It was a good finish to the day,” he said. “I started off well and kind of fell asleep halfway. I made a couple of weak bogeys from the fairway, and I had a good finish.

“I hit good shots and I made good putts at the right time. I think I needed to finish strong to give myself a chance going into the weekend.”

McDowell had missed the cut in five of his last six strokeplay events before this week but insisted he would not be pressing the panic button, especially as that stretch included victory in the RBC Heritage and at the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria.

The former US Open Champion carded three birdies and just one bogey in his 69, the dropped shot coming after he found the same bunker as Björn on the eighth.

McDowell was delighted to be in contention, saying: "I'm playing this golf course the way it's supposed to be played - fairways and greens. Once you start hitting it off line it will punish you.

"I just have not got the putter revved up but I am well in touch and right where I need to be. It's been a rough couple of months for me. I've not been playing the kind of golf I'd like to and the key to this week was to come and get myself in the mix for the weekend and get some of the juices flowing again.

"I'm excited for the weekend and to make a cut really. It feels like a step in the right direction.

"I certainly know what to do when I put myself in these positions. I just have not had the opportunity to do it lately. I'm probably on one of my worst missed cut runs in a while. It's nice to break that, first and foremost, and be on the leaderboard."

Like Zanotti, Kjeldsen came into the event with little form to suggest a title challenge – and the three-time European Tour winner insists victory still had not entered his mind despite adding a 68 to his opening 69.

“I haven't really been in contention in any tournaments this year, so this is a massive bonus,” he said.

“You're not going to get me to talk about winning and stuff like that, certainly not now. I'm just enjoying playing good golf, and hopefully I can keep going.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MCDOWELL, GraemeNIR18-9
2STERNE, RichardRSA18-5
T3DE LA RIVA, EduardoESP18-4
T3STORM, GraemeENG18-4
5DYSON, SimonENG18-3
T6DONALDSON, JamieWAL18-2
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