Lee Westwood (Getty Images)
Lee Westwood again showed his fondness for Sweden as he built a commanding halfway lead in the Nordea Masters at Bro Hof Slott.
Playing in the event where he recorded his maiden European Tour victory back in 1996 for the first time since 2004, the World Number Three fired eight unanswered birdies in his second round 64 to race to 12 under par.
Starting at the tenth, Westwood turned in a five under par 31, had his third birdie of the day on a par three at the short fourth, then struck his approach to five feet at the next for another gain.
Already ahead of the chasing pack at that point, the Englishman finished his round in style at the par five ninth, reaching the fringe of the green in two and two-putting.
Westwood also won this event in 2000 en route to becoming European Number One for the first time, and said after his round: “I’ve always enjoyed coming to Sweden, obviously winning here for the first time in 1996 gave me an affinity.
“And then I won again in 2000 when I won the money list so I’ve had a lot of success in Sweden and it’s somewhere I enjoy coming to.”
Part of the second group out this morning, Westwood took full advantage of the greens being in pristine condition.
“I played well,” he added. “I played nicely yesterday but today I played a little bit better.
“I’m getting to know the course a little bit better every day and it was there for the taking this morning. There was not alot of wind and the greens were pretty pure.
“I’m putting the ball well and rolling it nicely on the greens which gives you confidence. I hit it pretty close so I gave myself alot of chances.”
At the halfway stage Westwood was three clear of Spaniard Carlos Del Moral, home favourite Peter Hanson and Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman.
Hanson, playing with 39 year old Westwood, had a double bogey at the 11th - his second - but recovered with three birdies in his next four holes.
And when the four-time European Tour winner bogeyed the third he responded well once more with four birdies over the closing stretch, including a tee shot that stopped a foot short of the hole at the fourth and a closing 25 foot putt at the ninth.
“I didn’t strike the ball as well as I would have hoped and 68 was a good result,” said Hanson, who captured this tile in 2008 and is looking to make it a Swedish hattrick after Richard S Johnson and Alex Noren won the last two stagings.
It was a better day for the third member of the group as well - defending champion Alex Noren responding to his opening 74 with a 66 to safely make the cut.
Saltman - who has never finished higher than fourth in a European Tour event - had six birdies and one bogey in matching Westwood’s 64, and the 26 year old’s cause was helped significantly by an albatross at the par five 12th.
A long hitter, Saltman was left with 237 yards to the flag after his drive and struck a three iron which pitched seven feet short and rolled in.
“I had a great number,” he said. “I started walking then heard a little roar and knew it was in, so that was nice.”
Sergio Garcia had threatened to charge into contention with four birdies in his first 12 holes, but he found water with his second to the par five 13th.
Having dropped a shot there, the Spaniard bogeyed the 14th as well and eventually signed for a 69 and six under total.