Australia’s Scott Hend (main pix) and Richard T. Lee of Canada charged into contention at the halfway stage of the Omega European Masters on Friday as they trail the leaders by one-shot.
Hend and Lee, both Asian Tour champions, fired a three-under-par 67 and a 65 respectively to chase joint leaders Romain Langasque (63) of France, Richard Bland (64) of England and Richard Green (66) of Australia, who returned on nine-under-par 131s.
Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Marcus Fraser of Australia was three shots back of the leaders following a 69 while China’s Li Hao-tong produced a 70 to sit in tied 14th place at the €2.7 million (approximately US$3 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Title holder and Masters Tournament champion Danny Willett of England slipped to tied 31st place after carding a disappointing 72 at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club.
Playing in only his fifth European Tour event, the 21-year-old Langasque played without any pressure after virtually sealing his European Tour card for next season as he leads the Challenge Tour ranking with eight more events to play.
“I’m quite sure I will be on the European Tour next year so I play without pressure. If I play good that’s cool and if I play bad then it is no problem. I have nothing to lose. I have no pressure and maybe that’s why I can play good,” said the Frenchman.
Hend, a nine-time Asian Tour champion, marked his card with four birdies, three of which came in his final five holes, against one bogey to move into prime position to challenge for a third title this year.
“It doesn’t take much to have a little bit of lapse in concentration here. You hit one in the water, you take a drop or hit one to the back and all of a sudden you are playing ping pong. I’ve been in this position a lot this year and I’ve learnt a fair bit from it so hopefully we can forge ahead and see what happens,” said Hend.
Lee, a one-time winner in Asia, changed his putting stance midway through the round after posting three early bogeys. He bounced back with six birdies including a 50-foot eagle putt on hole 14.
“I’m currently 58th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and I’m thinking of going to the European Tour Qualifying School. Those three bogeys angered me and I told myself that I’m not going to lose my Asian Tour card.
“After those three bogeys, I switched my putting style and made a lot more putts. That made me calm down a bit more. I made my right hand straighter and my stroke smoother. That helped me turn it around,” said Lee.
China’s Li stayed patient in the challenging conditions to return on even-par but he was slightly disappointed not to take advantage of his opening 65.
“It was another tough day for me. On hole number three, I used a seven iron and the ball landed in the bunker and was plugged. I made double bogey there but played very well in the next few holes. Made some really good up-and-downs and caught a couple of birdies.
“On the back nine, I hit it really well and had a lot of birdie chances which I didn’t make. I’m playing well so I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” said Li, who won his first European Tour title at the China Open in March.
The halfway cut was set at even-par 140 with a total of 77 players qualifying for the weekend.
Leading round 2 scores:
131 – Romain LANGASQUE (FRA) 68 63, Richard BLAND (ENG) 67 64, Richard GREEN (AUS) 65 66
132 – Alex NOREN (SWE) 69 63, Scott HEND (AUS) 65 67, Richard T. LEE (CAN) 67 65
133 – Andrew JOHNSTON (ENG) 65 68, Joachim B. HANSEN (DEN) 65 68, Julien QUESNE (FRA) 65 68, Alejandro CANIZARES (ESP) 69 64, Mikko ILONEN (FIN) 66 67
134 – Callum SHINKWIN (ENG) 66 68, Marcus FRASER (AUS) 65 69
135 – Graeme STORM (ENG) 66 69, Ross FISHER (ENG) 72 63, David HOWELL (ENG) 67 68, Tommy FLEETWOOD (ENG) 70 65, Gregory HAVRET (FRA) 64 71, Alexander LEVY (FRA) 68 67, LI Hao-tong (CHN) 65 70, James MORRISON (ENG) 65 70, Robert ROCK (ENG) 67 68, Miguel Angel JIMENEZ (ESP) 67 68, Nathan HOLMAN (AUS) 72 63
136 – Carlos PIGEM (ESP) 67 69, Romain WATTEL (FRA) 69 67, Nicolas COLSAERTS (BEL) 69 67, Florian FRITSCH (GER) 67 69, Paul PETERSON (USA) 64 72, Soomin LEE (KOR) 68 68
137 – Fabrizio ZANOTTI (PAR) 71 66, Daniel BROOKS (ENG) 64 73, Nino Bertasio (ITA) 66 71, Chris WOOD (ENG) 69 68, Danny WILLETT (ENG) 65 72, Oliver WILSON (ENG) 67 70, Adrian OTAEGUI (ESP) 71 66, Michael LORENZO-VERA (FRA) 64 73
138 – Renato PARATORE (ITA) 75 63, Rashid KHAN (IND) 73 65, Simon KHAN (ENG) 70 68, Lee WESTWOOD (ENG) 72 66, Bernd WIESBERGER (AUT) 68 70, Masahiro KAWAMURA (JPN) 70 68, Darren FICHARDT (RSA) 70 68, David DRYSDALE (SCO) 70 68, Brett RUMFORD (AUS) 70 68, Raphael JACQUELIN (FRA) 69 69, Paul LAWRIE (SCO) 70 68