Heath streaks ahead

Surrey’s James Heath outshone all of his more experienced counterparts to take a three-shot lead after the second round of the Aa St Omer Open in northern France.

Surrey’s James Heath outshone all of his more experienced counterparts to take a three-shot lead after the second round of the Aa St Omer Open in northern France.

The 22-year-old, mentored and managed by six-time major winner Nick Faldo, carded a flawless round of 66 to race to the top of the leaderboard and stay there all day.

Shooting the best score of the week so far catapulted Heath from joint 16th into the outright lead as yesterday’s seven joint leaders failed to capitalise on their good starts.

In fact none could maintain their positions and Poole’s Shaun Webster, winner on this course in 1998 when the St Omer Open was a third-tier event, and Sweden’s Pelle Edberg are his nearest challengers on three under.

Webster shot a 68 to move into contention while Edberg would have been closer to Heath but for a disastrous quadruple-bogey eight on the 16th.

Heath, from Kingston-upon-Thames, was one shot off the pace when he teed off this morning but an outward nine of 33, which included birdies at the par-three second, 324-yard fifth and par-five ninth, lifted him above the clutch of players who were all late starters.

Another birdie at the 10th took him to five under and into a two-shot lead and a three at the 417-yard 16th took him to six under. His score would have better but a 15-foot birdie putt at the last brushed the hole.

Heath has been relying on invitations to play on the European Tour this season but as this is a co-sanctioned event with the Challenge Tour he did not have to use up one of his three remaining invites.

He has, by his own admission, struggled to put a string of scores together in the four European Tour events he has played in – highlighted at the Celtic Manor Wales Open earlier this month when he shot two sub-60 rounds before fading badly over the weekend.

But Heath hopes this week will see a change in fortunes which could bring a one-year exemption should he win over this undulating and often windswept course.

“It is nice to play good golf again to be honest. It would be nice to put four good rounds together [here] but I know it is going to happen eventually,” he said.

“It is not like it is never going to happen but it is a matter of whether it happens now or in a few months’ time so I’ll try my best and see what occurs.

“I played nicely today, I have to say. I gave myself a lot of chances and holed a few of them.

“It is always nice not to drop shots. The wind is blowing, it is quite a tricky golf course and it is tough in places where you are into the wind but it was just a good solid round.

“I made a couple of good up and downs when I needed to and the last couple of holes I played really well and it could have been a bit more but I suppose everyone will say that.”

Webster bogeyed the first but then had three birdies to take him to the turn in 34 and with another birdie at the 16th moved to within three of the leader.

Wentworth’s 24-year-old Ross Fisher, a good friend of Heath’s, shot a round of 70 to be four off the lead in joint fourth with Yorkshire’s James Hepworth, who carded a 71.

Frenchman Jean van de Velde, famous for throwing away the 1999 Open at Carnoustie on the last hole and who is playing on invitations, finished on level par – good enough for share of 19th – to make his fifth cut in eight events on both tours this year.

Another Wentworth resident Lewis Atkinson, who is currently house-sitting for Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn, holed the 195-yard 17th with a six iron to win a Renault car but missed the cut at seven over.

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