Charles-Edouard Russo defied the strong winds which swept across Golf de Toulouse-Seilh to set the clubhouse target in the ALLIANZ Golf Open du Grand Toulouse.
The Frenchman, who hails from Bussy St Georges near Paris, a club that has bred European Tour winner Gregory Havret, leading amateur Romain Wattel and fellow Challenge Tour professional Francois Calmels, carded a five under par 66 to move to seven under par 135.
Capitalising on the calm morning conditions, Russo picked up three birdies in his first five holes before the wind got up to average speeds of 20mph. By then Russo, who started on the tenth, was on a roll and picked up further shots on the 17th , first and seventh holes before dropping his only shot of the day on the long eighth.
“The conditions were very hard,” he said. “After picking up shots early on, I kept going and took no risks, playing to the middle of the greens and I’m very pleased with five under.”
Russo has slipped down the Challenge Tour Rankings from a high of 16th after the Aa St Omer Open to his current position of 40th. The top 45 after the next three events will qualify for the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, after which the top 20 graduate to The European Tour.
“I like this course as I finished fifth last year and the long par fives suit me as I hit the ball a long way,” said Russo. “That should suit me as I try and get into the Grand Final.”
He has the added benefit and experience of friend and former professional Antoine Taupin on his bag this week, courtesy of a birthday present in August.
Spain’s Carlos del Moral and Switzerland’s Julien Clement emerged as Russo’s closest challengers.
Del Moral, winner of the M2M Russian Challenge Cup two weeks ago, shot a two under par 69, including a run of four successive birdies from the third, to lie three behind.
“The first six or seven holes I played beautifully but then I lost my swing a little and I now need to get my short game sharp for this weekend.”
Del Moral’s win in Russia elevated him to 19th on the Rankings and another good week will go a long way to securing his card for the 2011 European Tour season.
“I know the position I am in but the results come from working the right way,” he said. “That worked well in Russia two weeks ago and I am trying to do the same this week. You cannot swing every day as you like but you have to play smart.”
Clement is lying in 56th place on the Rankings needing to climb nine places in the next three events to get into the top 45 and earn and place in the season finale, and a second round 68, with six birdies and three bogeys has put him in position mount a weekend challenge.
“Normally this is an easy course,” said Clement,” but this wind is making it very tough. The cut was five under last year but looks like being five over this year!
“It’s very tough but I am very pleased with my game in these conditions. You need a lot of imagination to hit 20 yards away from the green with the cross wind blowing it back.
“My target is to play the Grand Final, then the Final Qualifying School but the main target is the top 20 and to achieve that I need a win and I am focused on that. I am in a good position and this course will be a good challenge this weekend.”