FORMER champion Matthew Fitzpatrick holds a two-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Scandinavian Invitation.
But the Sheffield star has home hero Henrik Stenson breathing down his neck after an afternoon of low scoring at Gothenberg’s Hills Golf & Sports Club.
Fitzpatrick and Gothenburg native Stenson treated the huge crowds following their group to a golfing masterclass on Friday, making the most of pleasant afternoon conditions to surge to the top section of the leaderboard.
Fitzpatrick, who won this event in 2016, holed a series of huge putts on the back nine as he carded six birdies and a single bogey in his second round 65 to head into the weekend on 11-under par.
“It’s been a great the past two days. Everything going to plan so not sure what else to say,” said Fitzpatrick, who is looking for his sixth win, having won the Omega European Masters back-to-back in Switzerland, and which he defends next week when he attempts a three-peat.
“This summer has been really big for me in a lot of things. I have struggled the past three or four summers, and not had the results I have wanted – or what I was working for – and this year we have been a little bit different.
“I have worked on my back foot shot and along with a lot of other good practise stuff we have been doing away from the tournaments, so it is paying off so far.
“Everyone knows what’s going on with Frankie (Francesco Molinari) and Dave (Alred), and that is obviously the thing that has kicked it into touch for everyone.
“But my strength and conditioning guy, he had been around football for a while and he was a big part of me starting it in the first place.
“It is something new this year that I have done and so far, it has been good.
“I think a lot of it has just been the way I have been feeling with my swing. I was only talking to Mike Walker the other day, we have done probably three things all year in working on my swing in terms of maintaining it for where it is.
“In previous years I can think of range sessions where I’ll go and I can’t feel that, I can’t feel that, and you just go round in circles.
“This year has been different, I wanted to prepare mentally, and I wanted to make sure we stuck to one process, along with the other stuff that we do on the range, and it has definitely been better.
“Off the course I feel a bit more settled and I have a plan with my team on what I am trying to do and also me personally just trying to work on it.
“My team telling me to not beat myself up, and that I am too hard on myself – which I probably am – but it’s a case of wanting to just get better, but you can’t let that get in the way of it.
“It is certainly something I have tried to work on in the past two months. You make a bogey you get on with it and move onto the next one, and as stupid as it sounds just smile a bit more.
“I’ve got targets in my mind of what I want to achieve at certain ages and in my season in general, so I have put myself in a good position here to move that forward and keep doing what I am doing.”
Stenson, meanwhile, reeled off six birdies in a row around the turn before putting the finishing touches to his stunning 62 with a birdie to sit alone in a tie for second place alongside Wu Ashun on nine-under.P
Stenson said: “It was a good day. There aren’t too many times you are shooting 62 and you start with a bogey.
“It felt a big distance walking off the first green that I was going to shoot eight-under today, but I got great support out there.
“A lot of people came out despite the weather in the morning, so I tried to please them, and I think I did,” said the 2016 Open Champion.
“I just try to hit the shots to the places I wanted to, put some really good swings on the ball out there, and when I didn’t do that, I made it up with the putter.
“I was rolling it good, made most of them, even though it always stinks to miss a three-footer on the second last hole.
“But all-in-all a very good day out there,” added Stenson whose last win came in the 2017 Wyndham Championship, in the States.
“I am just happy to play a good round today. I was a was quite some way back after the first round, so to have a good score and make up some ground to be in contention for the weekend feels pretty good,” Stenson said.
“A lot of golf left to be played and Matt is playing really solid, so I think he is going to be the one to try and catch at this point.”
The Swede is one shot clear of early clubhouse leader and fellow countryman Joakim Lagergren and Aussie Jason Scrivener.
The early risers found low scores hard to come by following persistent overnight rain and blustery morning conditions.
But the weather improved throughout the day and Fitzpatrick, Wu and Stenson were able to take full advantage.
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