Crans Montana: Reigning Order of Merit champion Scott Hend continued his dominance at the Omega European Masters despite having to worry about his children back home in Florida due to the approaching Hurricane Irma on Friday.
The 44-year-old Australian, who has his wife Leanne on the bag this week, maintained his one-shot lead after signing for a flawless seven-under-par 63, highlighted by an eagle on the famous seventh hole and five other birdies, at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club.
Hend seized a one-shot lead over South African Darren Fichardt, who carded a matching 63, with a two-day total of 13-under-par 127 and remained on track to redeem himself after losing the title to Alex Noren of Sweden on the first play-off hole last year.
Thai star Thongchai Jaidee, Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay and Asian Tour rookie Todd Sinnott of Australia stayed four shots off the pace in third place following respective rounds of 66, 65 and 66 at the €2.7 million (approximately US$3.25 million) event.
Defending champion Noren carded a 67 to tie in 32nd position on 137 alongside a host of players, which include former winner and Asian Tour Order of Merit leader David Lipsky, who signed for a 70.
A total of 77 players made the halfway cut set at even-par 140 at the Swiss showpiece, which remains as the only tournament on European soil to be co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours.
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Hend has his wife Leanne on the bag this week but his children are back at home in Florida. With Hurricane Irma heading towards the Sunshine State, Hend admits golf is not the only thing on his mind.
Hend missed two fairways but hit all 18 greens in regulation in his commendable round of 63.
Hend, a nine-time Asian Tour winner, was the first Australian to win the Order of Merit in 2016.
Hend and his family are based in Jacksonville, which recently declared a state of emergency due to Hurricane Irma. He had moved to Florida in 2004.
Hend was eight-under-par and trailing by one after 36 holes in the 2016 Omega European Masters. He surpassed that performance with rounds of 64 and 63 to lead by one at the Swiss showpiece this week.
Thongchai has never missed a single cut in seven appearances at the Omega European Masters. His best result was a tied-fifth finish in his maiden appearance in 2009.
Thongchai is the highest-ranked Thai player in the world. He sits in 118th position on the current Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
Thongchai is regarded as one of Asia’s greatest players, thanks to an unprecedented three Order of Merit crowns and 13 career victories on the Asian Tour.
Sinnott is a one-time winner on the Asian Tour. He is playing his first Omega European Masters this week.
Scott Hend (Aus) – Second Round 63 (-7), Total 127 (-13)
I think we've had better conditions in the last two days than we had last year so we'll see what happens at the weekend.
I was just plodding along in the first six holes and I couldn't hit a shot, and then I just hit a pure five wood and it landed fantastic on the green, rolled up to about four feet and I rolled it in to kick the round off a bit.
I think we got a bit fortunate with the wind in the afternoon today, it wasn't very windy out there. But the greens seemed to bake out a little bit in the drier weather so it became a little tricky to read putts out there.
Hopefully that experience from last year can help but we'll see tomorrow. This golf course is quite a beast when it gets rainy and windy s it's the old cliché that it is what it is so we'll just take it one step at a time.
It would be nice to putt a little bit better but you walk off with 63 you're pretty happy. I just tried to play a bit more conservative than usual and I got lucky with a few shots.
We're a bit worried about our kids back in Florida with the sitter, in the hurricane. We've been up late at night trying to find contingency plans and I think we're going to get them out of there, it's not worth the risk.
Darren Fichardt (Rsa) – Second Round 63 (-7), Total 128 (-12)
It has been pretty solid. I am just playing the course as it is. The first nine was very quiet. I only made one birdie on seventh but I started tearing it up heading into the back nine which was quite nice. I am very happy with the way I am playing and very happy with where I lie.
I hit very good putts on the front nine but was just missing the holes and burning edges. I said to my caddy that the putts are bound to drop so I made a good one on the 11th hole. That sort of kickstarted my back nine.
I am 12-under now and one behind Hend. It’s going to be fun. You just have to eliminate the mistakes out there. The greens can really bite you if you’re missing on the wrong sides. You can make easy bogey. You just need to think a lot out there, make the right shots at the right time I guess. I just have to keep doing what I have been doing.
It’s obviously going to be a lot trickier with the expected rain tomorrow. You got to hit it a little bit longer but the course condition is pretty much the best I have seen so you shouldn’t be affected by the rain too much.
Todd Sinnott (Aus) – Second Round 66 (-4), Total 131 (-9)
I am very happy to stay bogey-free. To be honest, I hit it really good yesterday but I didn’t hit it quite so good today. I made a lot of good up and downs on the front nine and was able to keep the momentum going.
I kind of like playing in tough weather. It’s always good to be playing in the last few groups. It’s my first time here so I am just playing out the course and try to play the best I can out there. I don’t have any expectations. I was just trying to play as good as I can.
I am pleased with the way I hung in there today. I definitely didn’t play my best stuff today so I am glad I hung in there and keep myself in the tournament.
Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) – Second Round 66 (-4), Total 131 (-9)
I felt really good out there. I played well yesterday and today. I only had one three-putt on my first hole (10th) today. My game feels pretty consistent. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens these two days. My putting is getting better. I felt like it has improved after two rounds here this week.
I holed a few long putts out there. Today, I had two and one of them was for eagle on 15 where I sank a 25-footer. The other one was for the birdie on fourth about the same distance from greenside. These long putts gave me a lot of confidence heading into the round.
I have been struggling with my putter for the last few months so it’s really a boost in confidence for me given the way I have putted so far this week. I always like playing here. I have been here a lot of times. It is not a long golf course. You need to keep the ball in play. I always enjoy playing here.
I guess the course knowledge helps too. You need to know your way around this golf course to play well. You feel more relaxed when you know you have the experience as the course can get very tricky. I hope my confidence will stay up there for the next two rounds.