Siem leads French Open by one after Westwood deals with penalty drops

Marcel Siem at the Alstom French Open
Getty Images
Marcel Siem has carded two straight 68s in grrabbing the halfway lead at Le Golf National.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

PARIS -- Marcel Siem of Germany took over at the top at the Alstom French Open on Friday -- and had his title hopes boosted by a dramatic collapse from world No. 3 Lee Westwood.

When Westwood chipped in at Le Golf National's 10th hole just after an 80-minute thunderstorm delay, he was in a tie for third place. But he took penalty drops on three of the next five holes -- once from heavy rough and twice from water -- in dropping five shots on the course that will host the 2018 Ryder Cup.

Westwood did come back with a birdie on the short 16th, but a 2-over-par 73 left him seven adrift of Siem, who leads by one over Sweden’s Alex Noren at the halfway stage.

"I got it together for the last few and I'm still not out of it," Westwood said. "If you hit it straight, I think there's a low score out there."

Siem, who won the 2006 World Cup partnering with Bernhard Langer, has only one European Tour victory in approaching 300 starts. But he barely missed out on a playoff at the BMW International Open a couple weeks ago, and now back-to-back 68s have put the 31-year-old in the driver’s seat heading into the weekend.

Siem double-bogeyed the 17th immediately after the resumption of play at 5:00 p.m., but he then covered the front nine in a superb 4-under 32 with birdies at the first, third, fifth and seventh.

Noren, twice a winner last year, caught him with a hat trick of birdies from the 14th, but bogeyed the last for what was still a best-of-the-day 67 on a layout criticized for being too tough by Ian Poulter.

At least Westwood was still in it after his horrific stretch over the same four holes that cost him four strokes on the opening day.

British Open champion Darren Clarke paid a huge price for one nightmare hole -- a quadruple-bogey 8 at the seventh, his 16th of the day.
 
The 43-year-old Ulsterman, playing his last tournament before he defends the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham in two weeks, had been in 20th place as he stood on the tee. But his second shot found the gorse and after taking a penalty drop he went into a bunker, came out short of the green and took three more from there.

Clarke dropped another stroke on the next and missed the cut by one on 4 over, but his 76 was still four better than playing partner Paul Casey.

For former world No. 3 Casey, that meant a second successive 80, and with only one cut made all season -- just like Clarke -- his recovery from the shoulder dislocation suffered snowboarding on Christmas Eve is taking a worrying long time. He made his exit in tied for last place among the 155 players.

Poulter kept his title hopes alive with a second-round 69 to move to 1 under for the tournament, but blasted the course set-up.

"Paris National is a magnificent course, but they have got the set-up completely wrong," the Ryder Cup star told Sky Sports. "I'm amazed how they have brought in pretty much every fairway. They've made it too tough."

Tournament Director David Probyn said there had been hardly any change in the fairway widths from previous years, but the rough was up following the wettest June for 60 years.

"It's tougher than we would like it to be, but I think the targets are still there to hit," he said.