Hard labour works wonders for Gonzalez

A week labouring on his farm back in Argentina appears to have worked wonders for Ricardo Gonzalez on his return to the European Tour.

A week labouring on his farm back in Argentina appears to have worked wonders for Ricardo Gonzalez on his return to the European Tour.

The 39-year-old big-hitter, lapping up the longest course in Tour history, recorded his second successive 68 to reach halfway at the SAS Masters in Malmo on a superb 10 under par.

Gonzalez flew home after failing to qualify for the Open Championship and helped out with the felling and stacking of trees to prepare for the winter on his “Handicap Cero” farm, which is also an education centre for youngsters.

“I started at around eight o’clock each day and worked through until about seven,” said Gonzalez after moving from one behind England’s Lee Slattery into a three-stroke lead, although Slattery was only just setting off on his second round.

Barseback measures 7,665 yards and was always going to suit the former caddie, who topped the driving distance statistics in Europe in both 2001 and 2004.

Taking only 23 putts in his first round and 25 in his second was the key, however, to him putting in the best performance of a season which sees him languishing in 153rd spot on the money list and without a single top 10 finish.

Slattery, seeking his first victory on the circuit, led on six under overnight and added another birdie at the 443-yard 11th, his second.

He was joined in second place, though, by Swede Martin Erlandsson, while Scotland’s former US Amateur champion Richie Ramsay was one stroke further back after his second successive 70.

Pre-tournament favourite Henrik Stenson, who pledged his winnings this week to his new Foundation charity, was in danger of drawing a blank when he stood two over par with one to go.

However, his first driver of the week and then a five-wood to five feet set up a closing eagle chance on the long ninth.

Stenson missed the putt, but tapping in for a 74 and a one over aggregate looked sure to be good enough to survive.

“I saved the best two shots ’til last,” said the world number seven.

“Missing the putt took away some of the fireworks and now I’ll have to attack even more on the last two days.”

Former US Open champion Michael Campbell had to wait to see if his 70, an eight-stroke improvement on his first round, had enabled him to make his first cut since last October.

The New Zealander has been battling a shoulder injury and pulled out of last week’s Open during his second round, but moved up from five over to two over after going to the turn in 32.

England’s Danny Willett reached five under, but then bogeyed the 16th and 18th for a 72.

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