Oscar Floren (Getty Images)
For the first time in his career, Sweden’s Oscar Floren posted his second successive bogey-free round to grab the lead at the midway stage of the ALLIANZ Golf Open de Lyon on the European Challenge Tour.
Floren added a flawless round of 67 to his opening 65 to move to ten under par, one stroke clear of Frenchman Adrien Bernadet and the English duo of Charlie Ford and Paul Dwyer.
The Swede, who has finished in the top 15 in his last three tournaments, picked up shots at the second, third, and eighth holes on the way out, before adding another birdie on the more demanding back nine at Golf du Gouverneur in Lyon, France.
With overnight leader Marcus Higley toiling to a round of 75 in the afternoon heat, Floren could afford to sit back and reflect on a job well done – if only half done.
He said: “I’m very, very pleased with my round today. I wasn’t hitting my driver very well, so I decided to leave it in the bag for the most part – I think I only used it five times. I hit my three wood on most holes, just to try to keep the ball in play more, because if you do find the rough out there it can punish you. My iron play was pretty good, then whenever I did miss the green I was able to get out of trouble because my short game was very strong, which always helps.
“I’ve been working very hard on my short game lately, and that paid off for me today. It takes a lot of the pressure off my long game, if I know my short game’s working well. So that was the main reason I kept the bogeys off the card for the second day running, which has never happened before. Normally I make a lot of birdies but tend to mix in some bogeys, because I start to get a little too aggressive.
“But today I stayed focused and kept my concentration, even though I wasn’t feeling that well. My stomach wasn’t great and I also felt fairly tired out there today. So I’m looking forward to having a rest, eating some lunch and then hitting a few balls on the practice range. But I won’t stay too long, because I know my game’s in good shape and my confidence is high at the moment.
“My confidence comes from preparing well every week, so that when I step out onto the course, I know I’ve done everything I can do to get the best possible result. That way it’s a lot easier to just relax, free my mind, and play my game. If I haven’t done enough practice or preparation, it might play on my mind a little bit. But at the moment I’m just able to swing the club and enjoy my golf.”
Another player enjoying his golf is Challenge Tour debutant Ford, who currently sits 11th in the Rankings thanks largely to his victory in the Turkish Airlines Challenge presented by Carya Golf Club.
Ford’s momentum has stalled of late, having missed the cut in his last two events, but rounds of 68 and 65 – the joint lowest of the day – have got the 25 year old from Leicester moving in the right direction again.
He said: “I didn’t drive the ball particularly well today, but I played smart golf and made a lot of good decisions, which meant I was able to hit most greens in regulation. I also putted very well, which isn’t too hard out here because the greens are so good. If you find the fairways out there, you’re likely to make a lot of good birdie chances. But if you don’t, you can’t afford to be too aggressive, or you’re likely to come unstuck. So you’ve got to play sensibly around here.
“I haven’t been playing well recently, but that’s been mainly due to my putting. This week the greens have been much better, which has helped me change my luck. Hopefully the putts keep dropping over the weekend, and I can put myself in position. If I can drive it better than I did today I should have a decent chance, because the rest of my game’s in good shape.”
The same could be said for his compatriot Dwyer, who is targeting his maiden Challenge Tour victory after two runner-up finishes in his career.
Dwyer opened this season with four consecutive missed cuts, but after hitting his stride in recent weeks, he feels they are now a distant memory.
The 37 year old, whose only mistake in a round of 66 led to a bogey at the 15th hole, said: “I was very steady from tee to green, and made a lot of putts – some from long range. I sunk a 30-footer on the tenth hole, so it’s always a bonus when they go in. Obviously I was disappointed with the bogey at 15, especially as I hit a decent drive. So to find the water on the right from the middle of the fairway was almost inexcusable really. But I did quite well to make a bogey in the end, and the rest of the round was pretty plain sailing.
“It’s probably a little while since I’ve gone out in one of the last groups at the weekend, so I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to see my name up near the top of the leaderboard. The last few weeks I’ve been steady without really challenging, but now I’ve got a good chance of making an impression at the business end. I’ll just forget what position I’m in, and just keep trying to do the things that have got me into this position in the first place.”
Bernadet, who has finished in the top 12 in his last three Challenge Tour events, is another in-form player chasing his maiden victory.
The Parisian got off to a flying start with an eagle at the third hole, and closed with two birdies to sign for a round of 65.
He said: “It’s always when your long game and short game are both working well. I got off to a bad start this season, but in the last month my results have really picked up. I recently changed my putter, and my form on the greens has improved a lot. Now I’m much more confident over my putts, and it’s showed in my results.”
Big-hitting Austrian Bernd Wiesberger shot a round of 67 to move to eight under par, where he was joined by 2008 Challenge Tour graduate Taco Remkes of the Netherlands, whose 66 signalled a return to form after a wretched season on The European Tour last term.