Henrik Stenson maintained a presence at the top of the leaderboard in the BMW International Open, but was forced to share top spot with South African George Coetzee.
Stenson, starting the day with a one-shot lead after an opening 64 signed for a second round 70, while Coetzee put together a second successive round of 67. In contrast, Stenson bogeyed his final two holes while Coetzee birdied 2 of his last 3 holes.
Swede Stenson has dropped to 124 in the world after ranking fourth just two years ago, but might have been clear of the field but for those closing bogeys. Starting from the 10th hole and turning in 1-under par, Stenson arrived at the 8th – his 17th hole – with a three shot lead after an eagle on the 6th was followed by a birdie on the next.
Those dropped shots allowed Coetzee to close the gap as he made birdies on two of his last three holes to tie Stenson.
Coetzee has yet to win on the European Tour and let slip a golden opportunity at last week’s St. Omer Open where he was handily placed to challenge heading into the final day. To date he has never contested a Major Championship either – but he came through qualifying to earn a place in the Open Championship next month at Royal St Georges.
The pair are one shot clear of Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal who carded a bogey-free 67, including an eagle on the 16th hole, and he opened and closed his round with birdies on the 1st and 18th as well as adding another gain on the 9th. After losing to Coetzee in a play-off to book a place in the season’s third major, Larrazabal needs a top two finish to make the Open Championship field.
A packed leaderboard saw five players tie on 8-under par, two shots off the lead. The group included Welshman Bradley Dredge and former BMW PGA Champion Simon Khan, while former US Open champion Retief Goosen was among a group of players a further shot back on 7-under.
World number 3 and US PGA Champion, Germany’s Martin Kaymer moved into contention on 6-under par alongside former Open champion Paul Lawrie.
The tipster challenge is spearheaded by in-form Dutchman Joost Luiten, who despite turning in level-par after starting out 2-under, birdied three holes without reply on the homeward nine to move into a group on 5-under par which included defending champion David Horsey and Italian Francesco Molinari.
Ross Fisher meanwhile shot a round of 70 to move to 3-under par and share with the likes of Dustin Johnson and Ryder Cup team-mate Miguel Angel Jiminez.
Anders Hansen, who had enjoyed a rich vein of form prior to this event, let the tipster side down by adding a 75 to his opening 76 to comfortably miss the cut. He kept some good company, however, as golf legend Bernhard Langer also missed out following rounds of 76-79, as did Paul Casey.
The Englishman, ranked 12th in the world was largely expected to contend strongly this week but added a 73 to his opening 72 to miss the cut by 3 strokes.