The towering Dane is now eyeing up the Number One spot in the Challenge Tour Rankings as victory at the €160,000 event, in Drítec close to Prague, would elevate him to the summit ahead of current leader Gary LockerbieHartø, who won twice in 2010 including a debut victory as an amateur at his home tournament the ECCO Tour Championship hosted by Thomas Björn & Mercedes Benz, has already guaranteed himself a return to The European Tour next year after an extremely consistent season thus far.
He has not yet managed that third win, however, but took one step closer at the Graham Marsh-designed course in the Czech Republic after making a perfect start with back to back birdies at the opening two holes.
A bogey at the third knocked him back but only briefly as he embarked on a run of four successive birdies from the sixth hole - bombarding the pins with all of his birdie putts within 10 feet - to reach the turn in five under par.After holing out from the bunker for par at the 11th and a bogey on the 12th hole, Hartø bounced back in typically determined fashion when he knocked his tee shot stone dead at the par three 13th for a tap-in birdie before five pars on the way home moved him into a one-shot lead on twelve under par.
“I got off to a great start again,” said Hartø. “I played solid and made some good putts on the front nine but didn’t really get it going on the back nine and missed a few putts coming in.“It could have been better but I will always take a five under round. It was just good shots all of the way through, especially on that run of four birdies.”
The 24 year old admitted that he couldn’t but notice his position on the leaderboard throughout the day and is also aware that he could move to the summit of the Rankings with a win this week, but is keen to stay focussed and keep his momentum going into the weekend.“I have a hard time not looking at the leaderboard to be honest,” said the Copenhagen native. “There is still plenty of golf left in this tournament but it was another good round.
“A win, and the top of the Rankings, is 36 holes away and we’ll see what happens when the week is over. All I'm looking for is a good result here so I can be sure of a top ten (Rankings) finish.“I'm playing pretty well and if I can keep on doing that I’ll be alright. It would be nice to go into next week (the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Challenge hosted by Royal Golf Club) at a home tournament able to relax a little more.”
Hartø’s compatriot Anders Schmidt Hansen and Englishman Steven Tiley were both a shot back as they both carded five under par rounds of 67 to share second place.Max Kieffer, meanwhile, called it one of the best rounds of his career as the Dusseldorf man soared to a stunning course-record 63 to move to within two shots of the lead.
Since winning the season-opening Gujarat Kensville Challenge last January, Kieffer’s season has not quite lived up to early expectations but he has remained consistent and currently sits in 27th place in the Rankings.
A big finish to the season is needed, however, if he is to earn a Rookie season on The European Tour and he gave his 2012 campaign a timely boost as his nine under par second round launched him 44 places up the leaderboard into fourth spot.Chris Doak was a shot further back in fifth spot thanks to a six under par round of 66 as the Scotsman’s impressive run of form continues in the wake of his maiden Challenge Tour victory at last week’s ALLIANZ Open de Lyon.