2008 Tour Championship winner Robert Steele fired a magnificent eight under par 64 in the second round of The Pandora 2010 Open at Burhill GC in Surrey to lead the PGA EuroPro Tour event by two shots ahead of Fridayâ€™s final round.
Steele squeezed into the top five of the Order of Merit in 2008 after winning the showcase Tour Championship at Les Bordes in France, and after kicking off his round level after a 72 in his opening round, he showed some of the class that conquered one of Europeâ€™s best golf courses with a scintillating round of golf.
The Stratford-upon-Avon man recorded his first birdie of the day on the third and his second on the fifth before he picked up three pairs of birdies from the seventh, 11th and 14th to register a round that affords him a two shot advantage over Alex Belt and Jamie Little tied in second spot at six under.
â€œI did a lot of things right today,â€ said Steele. â€œI made a couple of twos at the par threes, I hit my wedges close and holed some big putts, a couple of 18 footers at 14 and 15 and a 20-footer at the seventh.â€
In his opening round, the 26 year-old began well on the back nine with three birdies but a bogey and double bogey coming home on the front nine left him annoyed by missed opportunities â€“ and he clearly corrected that with todayâ€™s assault.
â€œI kept it simple and took full advantage of my chances today,â€ said Steele. â€œYesterday I hit 16 greens in regulation, today it was 17, so I didnâ€™t really do a great deal different â€“ thatâ€™s why I left the course frustrated after the opening round.
â€œAny lead is a good lead but itâ€™s playing well out there so two shots is not a big one at all â€“ there are some hungry guys out there that are very capable. But whether I was two behind or two in front it wouldnâ€™t change the way I play.â€
Both Belt and Little (www.events4golf.co.uk) recorded four under par rounds of 68 starting on the back nine, with Belt picking up four birdies and Little grabbing five with a solitary bogey at 18.
Graham Benson and Sean Doherty were in a five-way tie for the lead overnight at four under par and they are still hand-in-hand after both carded one under par rounds of 71. Benson (Leighton Buzzard) got off to a dream start on the back nine with four birdies but by the time he hit the turn, three bogeys had undone his earlier good work and the front nine was a level one after two more birdies were cancelled out by two bogeys. Doherty (Bury GC) had a similarly colourful card with four birdies and three bogeys in his 71. Joining that duo in a three-way tie for fourth spot is Jack Clarke, whose progress was far more serene â€“ starting with a birdie then grabbing another at the ninth for round of 70.
Steeleâ€™s round of 64 rather overshadowed the efforts of Craig Lee (Aspire Golf Centre) who picked up nine birdies in his second round of 66 to move to four under par for the tournament. The Scotsman is joined there by Irish trio Michael McGeady, Michael Collins (www.foreireland.com) and Paul Oâ€™Hanlon (Curragh), Englishman Martin Sell (Wrag Barn GC) and Australian Daniel Gaunt, who is chasing back-to-back wins at the start of the Tour.
Fifty-One players made the cut at one over par (145) and the final round will begin at 8am, with Steele teeing off alongside Belt at 12.03pm. Live scoring from the final round of The Pandora 2010 Open is available at via the Score Updates link, where you can also find the full leader board from the tournament.