Young Briton Tom Lewis, bidding to earn his playing rights for next season after turning professional last month, stole the show with a sizzling eight-under 64 in Friday’s Portugal Masters second round.
Lewis, who sprang to prominence by sharing the first-round lead at the British Open in July while still an amateur, produced a scintillating reply to two opening bogeys by rattling in 10 birdies in 14 holes on a day of outstanding scoring.
The 20-year-old Englishman’s stunning run left him on 10-under 134, three strokes behind leader Simon Khan of Britain (66) at the Victoria course on the Algarve.
“I thought I was on my way home after the first two holes and I was pretty angry with myself,” Lewis said.
“Then my putt on the 12th hole [his third] went in when it looked as though it was going 12 feet past,” he added.
“From there I just kept making birdie after birdie and my sad face turned into a smiley face,” he said.
Lewis, who turned pro after helping Britain and Ireland regain the Walker Cup from the US last month, is trying to earn a European Tour card next year from seven tournament invitations, this being his third.
“I don’t really want to go to tour school so I’m hoping a good finish this week will increase my chances,” he said.
Second place would earn him his playing rights in much the same way as world No. 3 and US Open champion Rory McIlroy gained his card soon after turning professional in 2007.
Khan, winner of the tour’s flagship PGA Championship last season, collected eight birdies to lead fellow Briton Rhys Davies (67), James Kingston (68) of South Africa and Chilean Felipe Aguilar (66) by a stroke.
“I can’t remember the last time I was leading,” Englishman Khan said. “But I enjoy being up there.”
“You have to embrace the pressure really and if you want to be on the fringes on this tour, then go and do something else. It’s only the shadow of your ambitions, the pressure, and you have just got to enjoy that,” he said.
On a day when six-birdie runs were commonplace, Swede John Edfors claimed three eagles in a 67 as he finished in a group two strokes off the pace.
Tournament favorite and world No. 6 Martin Kaymer, who shares the course record of 61, was left rueing two careless bogeys at the fourth and ninth as he returned a 68 for 135.
“Nine-under looks good, but really the par for the course is more like 69 than 72,” he said.
“I would expect to be closer to the lead but dropped two strokes where I should have been picking them up,” he added.
“I ran up four shots from only 45 yards on the fourth. Tiredness can creep in at this time of the year, but I can’t blame that because I feel pretty fit,” he added.
With the cut being made at a joint record for this year five-under, triple major champion Padraig Harrington just crept in on 138.
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