Lawrie in hot pursuit of Hanson
PETER Hanson is making a late charge for the Europe Ryder Cup team after claiming a share of the halfway lead at the Czech Open, the penultimate qualifying event, yesterday. The Swede had a two-under-par round of 70 to join Fredrik Widmark, his compatriot, on seven under.
Peter Lawrie finished the best of the Irish yesterday, with a round of 68 giving the Dubliner a share of third place on six under par.
Shane Lowry is a further shot back after more than making amends for his 75 on Thursday to sink nine birdies on his way to carding a fine 64.
Hanson is 15th in the Ryder Cup standings and needs a win to overtake Paul Casey and claim the ninth and last automatic qualification place before the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles next week.
Second place in Celadna tomorrow would leave him about €20,000 behind Casey and still in with a chance.
With most of the top 15 missing the Czech Open, the opportunity is there for Hanson and a few others to add to Colin Montgomerie's selection headaches with a strong showing. Hanson, the world No 49, had sought a sponsors' invitation to play in the tournament and followed a first-round 67 with four birdies and two bogeys yesterday.
"It was a good day," Hanson said. "I feel good about my game -- my form is getting better and better. I'm driving okay and hit my iron shots very nicely. It is all about making those putts. I probably left four or five shots out there."
Simon Dyson is one place behind Hanson in the qualification standings and could also claim a place in the team with a victory. He is one of 13 players within two strokes of the lead after a round of 69 yesterday moved him to five-under par, and hopes that his recent purple patch, which included a 12th place finish at the US PGA Championship last week, will continue.
"Last week was the best I struck the ball for four straight days ever and I'm going to give it my all now to try to make the side," Dyson said. "This might be the best chance I ever have of winning a Ryder Cup cap."
He has more of a chance than Ross McGowan and Oliver Wilson, his fellow Englishmen, who are both well down the field on level par. McGowan has been in contention for the team for most of the season, but has suffered from wrist and shoulder problems over the summer and has fallen to 11th in the standings, while Wilson, in 18th, needs two good tournament finishes to earn a second Ryder Cup appearance.
Miguel Angel Jimenez is seeking his fourth and the Spaniard, who designed the course at the Prosper Golf Resort, hopes that inside knowledge will help to seal it. He is in the team at the moment, in eighth place, but does not intend to play at Gleneagles. He birdied four of his last 10 holes yesterday to move to three under par.
Tommy Fleetwood scraped into the weekend on his debut as a professional despite making a double-bogey six at the 12th and dropping a stroke at the last.
The 19-year-old from Southport is the English Amateur champion and was the world No 3 amateur. He had five birdies in a round of 71 to make the cut by one stroke.
Of the rest of the Irish in the Czech Republic, Michael Hoey carded a round of 72 for his two-under-par total, while Damien McGrane, also with an even-par round, is two over for the tournament.
Gary Murphy has a two-over total after finishing one over for the day with a 73. Simon Thornton missed the cut on three over, after a 73.
Meanwhile, Brad Snedeker shot a second-round 65 to finish level on 12-under par with Arjun Atwall in the second round of the Wyndham Championship at the Sedgefield Country Club in North Carolina.
Americans Keven Streelman and Lucas Glover both carded second-round 65s for a share of third place. (© The Times, London)
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