Luiten leads Lyoness Open by one over three pursuers after second round

Joost Luiten at the Lyoness Open
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Joost Luiten leads the Lyoness Open after three birdies on both the front and back nine, offset by two bogeys, on Friday to finish at 11-under 133 after 36 holes.
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PGA.com news services

Series: European Tour

ATZENBRUGG, Austria -- Joost Luiten of the Netherlands shot a 4-under 68 Friday to take a one-stroke lead into the third round of the Lyoness Open on the European Tour.

Luiten had three birdies on both the front and back nine, offset by two bogeys, to finish at 11-under 133. He's followed by Paul Waring of England (67), Callum Macaulay of Scotland (66) and Eduardo de la Riva of Spain (69).

Luiten trailed Tom Lewis by two strokes overnight, but the Englishman made five bogeys in his 74.

Defending champion Bernd Wiesberger, at 61st the highest-ranked player in the field, had a 71 and dropped to 17th. The Austrian likely needs a top-10 finish to qualify for next week's U.S. Open.

Former winners Markus Brier of Austria (2006), Richard Green of Australia (2007) and Jose Manuel Lara of Spain (2010) all missed the cut.

Starting from the 10th, Luiten covered the back nine in 35 with three birdies and two bogeys before coming home in 33 thanks largely to some brilliant approach shots. And the 27-year-old could have been further in front if not for missing from four feet for birdie on the third after his second shot had almost pitched straight into the hole.

“It was good,” said Luiten, whose only European Tour title came at the 2011 Iskandar Johor Open. “I hit some nice shots in close for birdie. I didn’t make as many putts as yesterday, but I’m really happy with the score. 

“The greens are great, maybe the best of the season. They’ve had a lot of rain but they’re still probably the best greens we’ve played on this year," he added. "They hold the shots going in and they are quick. What a good job they’ve done here. You have to play smart on some holes and it’s playing long. The rough is very tough.”

England’s Tom Lewis began the day with a two-shot lead over Luiten following a flawless 63 on Thursday, but could only follow up with a 74 that contained three birdies and five bogeys.

The trio immediately behind Luiten are all yet to win on the European Tour, although De La Riva came close at the Nelson Mandela Championship, where he was beaten in a playoff by Scott Jamieson. The Q-School graduate started with an eagle at the long 10th, but it was five birdies in his last seven holes that propelled him into contention.

“Five birdies in the last few holes is very good, and the last two holes were only from a couple of inches,” he said. “I’ve played very good in some tournaments but I’ve had some problems with my putter. With some good work it’s better, today I putted very well and I’m very happy.”

Waring, who enjoyed the first top-five finish of his European Tour career at the Spanish Open in April, was 6 under par for his first 13 holes before driving into the water on the 14th and having to hole a five-foot putt to salvage a bogey.

The 28-year-old, playing on a medical exemption after an operation on a serious wrist injury, bounced back with a birdie from close range on the next but then three-putted the 16th.

"I'm very happy," he said. "I finished a little bit poorly but I played awful the last few weeks to be honest so it's nice to feel I have got my swing back where it needs to be. "I did a lot of work after missing the cut in Sweden and because I know the course here. I even had Tuesday at home practicing before flying out."

Macaulay finished with three birdies in his last four holes to join Waring on 10 under par, having previously made just one cut this term since coming through Q-School, and admitted his good form had come out of the blue.

“It’s unchartered waters for the last two or three years, and if I’m being honest it’s come out of nowhere,” he said. “I’ve had a really poor start to the season and I’ve worked exceptionally hard to improve, but things haven’t been going my way.

“I did a lot of work last weekend in Sweden with Scott Arnold, who also missed the cut, and he made a couple of suggestions. It was very simple – I was delofting my irons on the way back and not getting any height. It’s taken a lot of repetition and it still feels a little bit funny, but I just need to keep hitting balls and get more comfortable.

Home favorite and defending champion Bernd Wiesberger, needing a top-12 finish to have any chance of climbing into the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking and qualifying for next week’s U.S. Open, has work to over the weekend after a 1-under 71 left him 5 under and tied for 17th.