Matteo Delpodio bounced back from a stuttering start to his second round to surge to the top of the leaderboard at the midway stage of the ALLIANZ Golf Open Toulouse Metropole.
Delpodio three-putted the second for bogey and dropped another shot on the fourth hole at Golf de Toulouse-Seilh, in south west France, but he rallied in stunning fashion to belie his lowly Ranking position of 85th.
The Italian collected his first birdies of the day at the sixth and eighth holes to get back to level par for his round, and added another gain at the 11th before holing a 30 foot putt for eagle at the 14th to reignite his bid for a maiden Challenge Tour victory.
Further birdies followed at the 15th and 17th holes – with a bogey in between – to move the 27 year old from Turin to ten under par, one shot clear of Denmark’s Joachim B Hansen and England’s Simon Wakefield.
Delpodio said: “It was a bad start, although I got an unlucky bounce on the fourth hole. But after that I played very well and hardly made any mistakes. Things started happening and the eagle putt on the 14th was a big bonus. I had a really bad lie on the 16th so had to lay up and made bogey, but I hit two great shots into the 17th and made one last birdie, which was a very pleasing way to finish.
“The wind made life much tougher today, because it always seemed to be across us, never behind us, so it wasn’t easy to judge distances. But the forecast is looking much better for tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to the weekend. I’ve been in contention a few times this year without making the most of my chances, but hopefully this time I can keep going and things will fall my way.”
Like Delpodio, Hansen – who opened with a sparkling opening round of 63 – got off to a sticky start, dropping shots at the second and third holes to drop back to six under par.
But the redoubtable Dane, who is currently 12th in the Challenge Rankings, rallied with a brace of birdies from the fifth hole, and added two more at the 15th and 17th to regain the initiative.
Hansen, who is seeking his first victory since turning professional in 2010, was understandably delighted with his gritty display.
The 22 year old said: “The key was just to stay patient and try to hit as many fairways and greens as possible, and for the most part I managed to do that. So I’m very happy, because the round could’ve got away from me today. I’m obviously in a great position going into the weekend, but I’ve been here before [in Denmark] and not managed to finish it off, so hopefully I’ve learned from that experience.”
Wakefield has one Challenge Tour victory to his name – at the Tessali Open del Sud – and, ten years on from that success, the Englishman is confident of doubling his tally after signing for a round of 68.
He said: “It was tough out there, but I enjoy playing in the wind when the course is set up for it, which it was today. It was a good challenge, and for the most part I rose to it. The objective was to play smart golf, because it wasn’t a day for attacking the pins. You have to think a bit more on a day like today – I knew people weren’t going to pull away, so it was a day to dig in and put myself into a good position going into the weekend. I’m feeling good and very much looking forward to it.”
Home hero Julien Brun is currently in fourth place on eight under par after signing for his second successive round of 67.
The amateur starlet is very much in unchartered territory, having never before teed up in a Challenge Tour event – let alone entered the weekend in contention to win.
But the 20 year old from Antibes, south east France, belied his inexperience with an astonishingly mature performance on a course he knows well, having played the French Boys Championship in Toulouse on numerous occasions.
Indeeed, were it not for a triple bogey seven at the 16th hole, where he hit his drive out of bounds, the precociously talented youngster would have held the outright lead.
But he is still well placed to emulate the feats of his friend and fellow Frenchman Romain Wattel, who won the ALLIANZ Europen Strasbourg as an amateur in 2010.
Brun is currently in the second year of a scholarship at Texas Christian University in America, whose former students include JJ Henry, twice a winner on the US PGA Tour. He has already made quite an impression on the collegiate circuit, recording three victories in his debut year in 2011.
He said: “I got off to a great start with a birdie on the tenth, which is an intimidating hole to start on – especially in the wind. So that really got my round going, until I hit my drive way right on the 16th, and ended up making a triple bogey. But I was pleased with the way I bounced back with a birdie on the next, and three more after the turn was a good way to finish.
“I’ve played the course many times during the French Boys Championship and other amateur events, and it can get pretty windy here so I was ready for it – although the wind was blowing in a different direction than usual today, so that made life tricky. Obviously I’m pleased with my position, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy the weekend because there’s no real pressure on me.”