Surprising Swede Sjoholm grabs two- shot lead at BMW International Open

Joel Sjoholm at the BMW International Open
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Big-hitting Joel Sjoholm carded two eagles Friday, both by chipping in on par 5s.
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PGA.com news services

Series: European Tour

COLOGNE, Germany -- Joel Sjoholm twice chipped in for eagle in shooting a 6-under 66 Friday to lead by two strokes at the halfway mark of the BMW International Open.

The Chilean-born Swede has already caught the eye with his knickerbockers and colorful attire, and his eagles at the 546-yard third hole and the 577-yard 16th in windy conditions at Gut Larchenhof were even more attention-grabbing. A closing birdie took the 26-year-old, 306th in the world and chasing his first European Tour win, to 11 under par.

Former Ryder Cup player Paul McGinley, looking to end a seven-year winless run, shot a 70 to share second place with Englishmen Chris Wood and Danny Willett and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti. After hitting a 65 on Thursday, his lowest first-round score since 2005, the Irishman's 36-hole starting tally is his best in two years.

Also Friday, Jose Manuel Lara was disqualified after his caddie tried to hide the fact that the Spaniard began the event with an extra club in his bag. In what was deemed a serious breach of etiquette, Lara was thrown out of the event when the incident came to light after he had shot an opening 73 -- and his caddie was asked not to return.

"His caddie noticed that he had a 15th club and on the second hole he attempted to lose it in a thick bush," explained European Tour Chief Referee John Paramor. "He was seen entering the bush with the bag of clubs by his playing partners (Ireland's Damien McGrane and Swede Peter Hedblom), who thought it was a little bit suspicious.

"They went and asked the chap 'What are you doing?' and he sort of fumbled out an answer saying 'I've got this wrong -- I've done something bad. I wish it hadn't happened, etc etc'.

"It was clear the club was out of the bag and in the bush at the time. He admitted it straight away and regretted his action," Paramor added. "A ruling was sought over what was the penalty for carrying an extra club and he was given two shots for the first hole and two for the second."

Without those strokes, Lara would have carded a 69. But on the 18th hole a referee was summoned to the recording area and that is when the full story was told.

"We interviewed the player and are perfectly satisfied that he had no knowledge of what was going on," said Paramor. "It was clearly the caddie doing what he felt at the time was the right thing, but was clearly the wrong thing. He's kind of been asked not to come back and that's how the matter has been resolved."

Meanwhile, local favorite Martin Kaymer, at 13th the highest-ranked player in the field, missed the cut, but his 54-year-old compatriot Bernhard Langer shot 67 and at 5 under is not out of the hunt yet.

Sjoholm, with a best European Tour finish of third in Sicily last year, followed his first eagle with back-to-back bogeys. But it was a different tale after the second one. He added birdies on the fifth and ninth to go clear.

McGinley, now 45 and regarded as the front-runner to captain Europe in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, has not won for seven years, but his career appears to be on the rise again.

He finished seventh in Korea in April, but on his last start in Wales three weeks ago produced a closing 65 for sixth place. The Dubliner began his 518th Tour event with another 65 and then added a 70 like Wood and Willett.

"It was much tougher -- a real good test of golf," McGinley said of his second round. "You had to work the ball and it's very important to keep it on the fairways."

He had an eagle on his card for the second day running, making a 20-foot putt at the third before finding the target as well with a 20-foot birdie attempt three holes later.

Former amateur internationals Wood and Willett have yet to register their first victories.

Wood is best known for finishing fifth in the 2008 British Open as an amateur and then coming third a year later at Turnberry, while Willett was a teammate of Rory McIlroy in the 2007 Walker Cup -- against an American side that included new U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson.

Zanotti had shared the first-round lead with Marcus Fraser, but managed only a 71 while the Australian fell five behind with a 74.

Sjoholm's eagles were far from routine. First he chipped in from heavy rough, and then he pitched in from almost 100 yards.

"Of course it's going to be a new situation for me, but I've watched a lot of the Euro Cup and have seen what happens after 45 minutes," said the Chelsea fan. "I'm just enjoying it so much and am not thinking too much about it, but of course I want to be a winner."

Sergio Garcia's 67 lifted him into a share of 13th on 6 under alongside, among others, Fraser and England's Andrew Marshall, who won a BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe with a hole-in-one at the 215-yard 17th.

Kaymer three-putted for bogey there and missed out by a single shot like Ryder Cup Captain Jose Maria Olazabal, while Paul Casey's latest return from injury saw him make yet another early exit. Rounds of 76 and 74 by the former world No. 3 gave him a 6-over total, seven strokes too many to survive.