Swedes set pace as Ryder race hots up

THIRTEEN players are separated by only two shots at the halfway stage of the Czech Open – and they include two of the men chasing a Ryder Cup place.

Peter Hanson, 15th on the points table, shares the lead on seven under par with fellow Swede Fredrik Widmark.

England’s Simon Dyson, one spot below Hanson in the cup race with only one more week to come, is on five under as he also seeks the win which would take him into the all-important top nine at the expense of Paul Casey.

Hanson, who received an invitation to the event on Monday, added a 70 to his opening 67 and said: “I left four or five shots out there, but I’m feeling good about my game.”

Widmark is a lowly 1,354th – joint last – on the world rankings after having shoulder surgery and then breaking his wrist falling off a roof.

But the 34-year-old not only made his first halfway cut of the season on the European Tour, but caught Hanson by grabbing three birdies in his last four holes for a 67.

One behind are Ireland’s Peter Lawrie, who in contrast bogeyed two of the last four, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, Argentina’s Clodomiro Carranza and another Swede, Fredrik Andersson Hed.

Dyson returned a 69 and commented: “It’s weird because I kind of expected there to be double figures (under par) by now, but there isn’t and that stands me in good stead.’

The incentive for him and Hanson is that Casey, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald, all of whom could have qualified, are missing next week’s Johnnie Walker Championship, opening the door to the chasing pack.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry is alongside him after a best-of-the-day 64 and Welshman Bradley Dredge would have been as well but for arriving for his round 20 seconds late and being penalised two shots.

“I thought I was 12.20 and it was 12.10,” he said after having to sign for a 67 rather than 65. “I wasn’t too happy, but it’s my fault for not getting it right.”

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, eighth in the cup standings and another who is not entered for next week, is also three under and English pair Ross McGowan and Oliver Wilson made the cut on level par to keep their fading cup hopes alive.

- Fore Ireland player Michael Collins played it steady over the last two days at Greenore to collect the annual PGA Challenge title, adding a 69 yesterday to a similar score on the opening day.

The Corkman’s four-under-par aggregate of 138 was two shots clear of second-placed Damian Mooney while joint overnight leader Ted Higgins finished third on 141 after adding a 75 to his first round 66.

Collins bogeyed the par four third hole but recouped the lost ground when he made birdie three at Index One hole seven and he turned in one-under-34 after another birdie three at the eighth.

At the long 11th, the winner made birdie four but gave back that advantage when he bogeyed the par four 15th before making his second birdie four on the back nine at the 17th for 35 shots back.

Brendan McDermott and Donal Gleeson shared fourth place but Michael Mulryan, who matched Higgins’ 66 on Thursday, slid to a 79 yesterday to finish in a group on 145, joint seventh.

- Virginie Lagoutte-Clement ended her four-year wait for a title with a final-round 71 to win the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open at Archerfield Links.

Ireland’s Rebecca Coakley, who had held a two stroke lead on three-under par after 14 holes, finished three shots back after taking an eight on the par-four 15th, dropping two more shots at the 16th and bogeying the 17th, resulting in a 75.

Thirty one year-old Lagoutte- Clement from France came from four shots behind the overnight leader Jeehae Lee to finish on one over par and claim a one-stroke victory ahead of South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace and English pair Sophie Walker and Trish Johnson as windy conditions took their toll on the scoring.

South Korean Lee finished two shots off the pace, tied with Scotland’s Vikki Laing and Stefania Croce of Italy, after she could only manage a closing-round 77.

Walker, like Johnson, bogeyed the 18th to finish with a 73.

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