Still seeking his first victory in his 15th season on the European Tour, England’s Richard Bland of England held a one-stroke lead over four other players after the second round of the Italian Open on Friday. A trio of Ryder Cup players also fared well.
Bland birdied his final three holes for a 6-under 66 for the second consecutive day to stand 12 under on the 7,282-yard Royal Park I Roveri course outside Turin.
The 39-year-old Bland’s best career result was second at the Irish Open a decade ago.
Gregory Bourdy of France, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain, Garth Mulroy of South Africa and Marc Warren of Scotland were each one shot back, while Richard McEvoy of England was alone at 10 under.
First-round leader Joel Sjoholm of Sweden was among seven players three shots behind.
All three Ryder Cup players in the field had solid rounds. Martin Kaymer’s 66 took him to 8 under, Francesco Molinari was one stroke further back after a 69, and big-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts had a 67 to reach 6 under.
Italian teenager Matteo Manassero was also at 6-under, while Europe Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal was two shots further back and set for the weekend.
The Ryder Cup will be held in two weeks at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.
Bland needs a solid result to retain his place on next year’s tour. He is currently ranked 126th with only the top 115 keeping their cards.
“I’ve had a tough couple of years, but that is behind me now and I am just trying to move forward and improve every day,” said Bland, who retained this year’s tour card through qualifying school.