Scottish duo in contention at halfway stage in Betfred British Masters

David Law and Calum Hill just two off lead at Close House

David Law tees off at the fifth on his way to a second-round 69 in the Betfred British Masters at Close House. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Overnight leader David Law was joined by Calum Hill in keeping the Saltire flying high at the halfway stage in the Betfred British Masters at Close House, near Newcastle.

The Scottish duo sit joint-fourth, two shots off the lead, held by Italian Renato Paratore, after a day of two halves weather-wise at the Northumberland venue.

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Law, who had opened with a seven-under-par 64 in an event marking the European Tour's full return after lockdown, faced miserable wet conditions in the morning.

Calum Hill, right, talks tactics with his caddie, brother Ian, during the second round of the Betfred British Masters at Close House, near Newcastle. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

The 29-year-old Aberdonian opened with nine straight pars before hitting a 4-iron to around 10 feet for an eagle-3 at the tenth.

He then dropped his first shot of the event at the par-3 14th before getting up and down from a greenside bunker to birdie the 17th, signing for a 69 to move him to nine-under

"I was happy with that," said Law, who is bidding to add to his breakthrough win on the European Tour in the Vic Open in Australia 17 months ago.

"It could get a bit messy out there as sometimes it was raining and sometimes it wasn’t.

"It was just about keeping your concentration and trying to control the spin around the greens."

Later, by which time the sun had come out, Hill joined his compatriot on nine-under after adding a 66 to his opening-day 67.

The 25-year-old Fifer was three-under for the day before rolling in a putt close to 50 feet at the 16th then adding another birdie at the par-5 17th.

"My game has been pretty solid overall," said Hill, who is in his rookie season on the top tour.

"I've hit it well and not put myself in too many stressful positions. Holed a few putts here and there and it's just kind of added up."

This event is the first of six tournaments on a new UK Swing being played behind closed doors as the circuit gets back up and running after a four-month Covid-19 shutdown.

"I don't think the lack of crowds make too much of a difference to me at this stage," said Hill, who has his brother, Ian, on the bag.

"I've not played enough tournaments where there are huge crowds to be used to it. This is more what I'm used to on the Challenge Tour where nobody is watching."

He won three times on the second-tier circuit and is now hoping to make the breakthrough on the main tour this weekend.

"Hopefully just keep hitting it the way I've been hitting it and be slightly more aggressive with some of my putts," said Hill of his game plan for the final two rounds. "I was just a bit tentative at some points, so hope to stay positive."

Paratore, who claimed his maiden tour title at the age of 20 in the 2017 Nordea Masters, moved into the lead after adding a 66 to his 65 on Wednesday.

"It felt really good today," said the 23-year-old, who is one of the fastest players on the circuit.

"I played really solid, especially the short game. I saved some shots when I needed it, so I’m very happy my game."

He leads by a shot from South African Justin Harding and Englishman Dale Whitnell after they carded 63 and 64 respectively to storm into contention.

Eddie Pepperell, the 2018 winner and second last year, sits five shots off the lead on six-under, with tournament host Lee Westwood and Paul Dunne, the 2017 champion at the same venue, both making the cut by the skin of their teeth on one-under.

Five Scots from an 11-strong starting contingent are still standing, with Scott Jamieson (three-under), Richie Ramsay (two-under) and Grant Forrest (one-under) also progressing to the final 36 holes.

Among those making early exits was recent Austrian Open winner Marc Warren after disappointing rounds of 78-77, as well as Calum Fyfe, who claimed his spot in the field by winning a qualifier.

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