Thursday, 29 June 2017
Paul Waring  (Getty Images)
Paul Waring (Getty Images)

Paul Waring continued his encouraging return from injury as he posted a 64 to take a two-shot lead into day two of the HNA Open de France at Le Golf National.

The Englishman played just 12 European Tour events in the last two seasons due to a serious shoulder injury but he has bettered that total so far in 2017 to sit 43rd on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.

He has achieved top ten finishes at the UBS Hong Kong Open, Joburg Open and Trophée Hassan II, and continued to make the most of his medical exemption in Paris.

The 32 year old's seven under total left him ahead of Belgian Thomas Pieters and rookies Alexander Björk and Nathan Kimsey, with a seven million dollar prize fund available in the second of the Rolex Series events.

In-form Tommy Fleetwood was then at four under alongside Florian Fritsch and Peter Uihlein.

Waring turned in 33 with birdies on the third, sixth and ninth and after further gains at the 11th and 13th, he became the first man this week to hit six under with an eight-foot putt on the 14th. Another gain on the next then made it three in a row and he had a cushion over the chasing pack with just nine putts on the back nine.

"I'm obviously made up," he said. "I only hit five fairways which is obscene around here. But I think I had nine putts on the back nine. Obviously rolled the putter great and gave myself some real chances out there and took them.

"You're always trying to push yourself forward. You're always trying to move up any sort of rankings, be that Race to Dubai, be that World Rankings. We've got a good, strong field again this year, so there's plenty of World Ranking points available. So I've just got to keep pushing myself forward.

"If we drive it better, we can go really silly but really happy with how it's gone. If we can just score similar to that, I'll be more than happy."

Three-time European Tour winner Pieters made his name when winning four points out of five in his Ryder Cup debut last year and was back in sparkling form to produce a putting masterclass on the layout that will host the contest in 2018.

The Belgian took advantage of the par five third and then holed from 20 and 30 feet on the fourth and sixth. He slipped up with a six on the ninth but that hot putter allowed him to hole from 25 and 20 feet on the 12th and 13th before he made it a hat-trick of gains from closer range on the next.

He had a chance to jump out into the lead after hitting a 348 yard drive down the last but missed his birdie opportunity.

Swede Björk has enjoyed a productive start to life on the European Tour, missing just three cuts in 15 events and securing two top tens since graduating from the Challenge Tour.

He was a picture of consistency again on Thursday, making birdies on the second, third, sixth, ninth and 13th to move ahead.

Qualifying School winner Kimsey recovered from an opening bogey on the tenth with a birdie on the 11th and four in a row from the 13th, needing just ten putts in his first nine holes. When he put his tee-shot on the second to six feet, he was in a share of the lead but he dropped a shot on the fifth before taking advantage of the ninth.

Fleetwood is enjoying a stunning season in 2017, winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, finishing second at the WGC - Mexico Championship and fourth at the US Open Championship.

He arrived in Paris off the back of a top ten at the BMW International Open and was in fine form again, carding a bogey-free 67 with gains on the 14th, first, third and eighth.

Uihlein was also bogey-free from the tenth, picking up shots on the 14th, fourth, seventh and ninth, while Fritsch had an eagle on the third, birdies on the sixth, ninth and 12th, and a dropped shot on the 17th.

Kristoffer Broberg, George Coetzee, Rikard Karlberg, Pablo Larrazábal, Adrian Otaegui, Adrien Saddier and Andy Sullivan were then at three under, a shot clear of a large group containing former champions Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Marcel Siem.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1FLEETWOOD, TommyENG18-12
2UIHLEIN, PeterUSA18-11
T3OLESEN, ThorbjørnDEN18-8
T3LORENZO-VERA, MikeFRA18-8
T3BJÖRK, AlexanderSWE18-8
6FOX, RyanNZL18-7

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