Bernd Wiesberger (Getty Images)
Bernd Wiesberger believes he is mentally ready to win his first European Tour title after taking full advantage of benign morning conditions at Blackstone Golf Club to lead the Ballantine’s Championship at the halfway stage.
The 26 year old Austrian carded a brilliant seven under par 65, and having opened with a respectable level par 72 on a blustery first day, leads by one from Australian Marcus Fraser.
Wiesberger was twice a runner-up in his rookie season last year, and having been beaten in a five-man play-off at Gleneagles by Thomas Björn feels he has gained some crucial experience to help him over the weekend.
“Last year I've always kind of hung in there,” he said. “So I feel comfortable up there. It's different for you if you go in the last day as the leader, but we'll see how it goes.
“We'll see how tomorrow goes, and I'll just take it easy and hope that I have a nice day tomorrow.”
After starting on the back nine and turning in 33, Wiesberger holed a 20 footer for birdie at the second, knocked in a 25 foot uphill putt at the fifth, and struck his approach to five feet at the sixth.
That took him into a share of the lead, and the two-time Challenge Tour winner finished by holing a downhill chip from the rough at the ninth to complete a blemish-free second round.
Fraser, who won this title on Jeju Island in 2010, signed for a 67 that left the 33 year old one ahead of Swede Oskar Floren.
“Today I couldn't really do anything wrong really,” added Wiesberger. “It felt like everything was going in the right direction.
“I’m just trying to hit a lot of greens and try and hit on the right spots, which is important here. It's a tricky golf course when you hit into the wrong places.”
Fraser started on the back nine and turned in 32 after four birdies, the last of which came when he chipped to within a foot from a greenside bunker at the par five 18th.
He then added further gains at the first and second, the latter after an approach to five feet, but bogeyed both par threes on the front nine and only a birdie at the fifth kept him in solo second.
“Obviously yesterday was very windy, pretty tricky for everybody,” said the two-time European Tour winner.
“And then today was completely different. We basically had no wind for most of the day and then it kicked up a little bit over the last maybe five, six holes. But overall, I’m very happy and very pleased with the way it's going at the moment.”
Asked what it was about the Ballantine’s Championship that brought the best out of him Fraser joked: “It's obviously just the alcohol – I can't really survive without it!
“It's obviously one of our premiere events now on The European Tour, and Ballantine's have been such a great sponsor and product. It’s just a great week and somewhere I love coming back.”
Floren was level par for his round and the tournament with five holes to play, but followed birdies at the 14th, 16th and 17th with an eagle three at the 18th.
“I hit a terrible, terrible tee shot on 14 but got a break with it and hit a good shot in and knocked in the birdie,” he said. “From there on, I hit only good shots.”
Spanish Ryder Cup star Miguel Angel Jiménez, England’s Anthony Wall and Chile’s Felipe Aguilar share fourth on four under, with none of the afternoon starters able to break into the top six in much windier conditions.