ENGLAND’S Lee Slattery shrugged off a shoulder injury caused by a soft pillow to move into contention for a second European Tour title in the Lyoness Open yesterday.
Slattery, 35, carded an eagle, five birdies and one bogey to return an impressive 66 at Diamond Country Club and lie just one shot behind playing partner Mikael Lundberg, who added a 68 to his opening 67.
“The bed this week is quite hard, which I usually like, but the pillow’s soft, which I’m not so keen on,” said Slattery, who won the Madrid Masters in 2011.
“When I got out of bed this morning I did a few stretches and felt something tweak in my shoulder.
“It felt a bit sore, then it got progressively worse and, on the way in on the bus, I wasn’t even sure whether or not I’d be able to play.
“But I went to see the physio as soon as I got to the course and he managed to loosen it up for me. He did a great job on it, so I owe him a thanks.”
Lundberg parred the first two holes but then birdied the next four in succession to move into a four-shot lead.
The 40-year-old from Helsingborg, who failed to record a single top-ten finish last season, dropped his first shot of the day after a clumsy chip on the eighth. And although he holed from 30 feet for birdie on the 12th, that proved to be his last one of the day as he missed from three feet on the next.
“I hit a lot of good shots early on and managed to make some putts, so that got my confidence up,” Lundberg said. “But it got tougher and tougher the longer the round went on because the course got firm and fast towards the end. I’ve been doing some great work with my new coach, Neil Jordan, over the last few weeks, and my game is feeling a lot more solid as a result. So while I maybe didn’t expect to play this well here, it’s not a complete shock to me either.”
Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti is two off the pace on seven under after a 68, with Korea’s Sihwan Kim six under after also shooting 68 and defending champion Joost Luiten another stroke back following a flawless 67.
“I’m very happy with five under,” the 28-year-old Ryder Cup hopeful said. “I made some nice saves for par and that’s what you have to do around this course. I am right back in there and that was the goal today, to try to make some ground on the leaders.”
Home favourite Bernd Wiesberger, who needs to win to secure his place in the US Open next week – second place might also be good enough depending on results elsewhere – is six off the pace after a round of 70, marred by a three-putt bogey on the last.
The best recovery of the day had come from Australian Brett Rumford, who played his first four holes in five over par but the remaining 14 in seven under to return a second round of 70 and finish one under par.
Only two Scots made the cut, with Scott Henry tied for 32nd on level par after shooting a second-round 75, while Jack Doherty sits joint 47th on two over par after a 71. Alastair Forsyth, Jamie McLeary, Craig Lee, Andrew McArthur and Peter Whiteford all missed the cut.
Meanwhile, Justin Rose faces an early start to the defence of his US Open title at Pinehurst next week. Rose, who won his maiden major title at Merion last year, will tee off at 7:51am local time alongside Open champion Phil Mickelson and US Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, who will turn professional at the end of the event.
Mickelson finished joint second behind Rose 12 months ago, a record sixth runners-up finish in the one event he needs to win to complete a career Grand Slam.
Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood are also among the early starters from the tenth tee, with Garcia beginning his bid for a first major title at 7:18am alongside Australia’s Jason Day and American Brandt Snedeker.
European number one Stenson is in the next group with Westwood and American Matt Kuchar.
McIlroy, who won his first major title by eight shots at Congressional in 2011, tees off at 7:40am with 2010 winner and fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, along with 2012 champion Webb Simpson.
World No 1 Adam Scott is out at 1:25pm along with the man who succeeded him as Masters champion in April, Bubba Watson, and the 2011 Green Jacket winner Charl Schwartzel.
Three of golf’s youngest stars have also been drawn together, the grouping of Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler having a combined age of just 67.