MOSCOW – Rikard Karlberg of Sweden took a two-stroke lead over four others after the second round of the M2M Russian Open, shooting a 4-under 68 Friday to move to 9 under overall.
Matthew Baldwin (69), Wen-Chong Liang (70), Alexandre Kaleka (67) and Michael Hoey (67) stand two shots off the lead in the European Tour event.
"I am in a great position right now, but there is still a long way to go," Karlberg said. "We are only at the halfway stage and I need to keep doing what I have been doing and making birdies to have a chance."
Karlberg, 26, is playing in his 50th European Tour event. He birdied four of his first six holes, dropped shots at the 18th and fifth, then finished with two gains over the closing stretch to reclaim his advantage.
“It was a pretty tough day out there today because the wind got really strong in the middle of the round and caused quite a few problems,” he said. “But I made a really good start to the round and then when the conditions got worse I managed to hang in there and then had a great finish with two birdies in my last few holes which is very satisfying obviously.”
Kaleka won this event last year when it was part of the second-tier European Challenge Tour schedule, and was delighted to overcome a double bogey at the 12th for the second day running with seven birdies.
“It was pretty special to come back here after winning on the Challenge Tour at Tseleevo last year,” he said. “As soon as I arrived at the club, a lot of great memories of last year came back to me and thankfully I have been able to use that to help me play well again this week.
“I am looking forward to the weekend and to try and win the tournament again. There is obviously a lot of golf to be played before Sunday, but I am in a good position and it would great to win here again.”
Baldwin, 26, has yet to finish higher than fifth on the European Tour, birdied his final hole for his 69 as he advanced to 7 under par.
“I have to admit that it wasn’t very pretty out there at times today,” he said. “It was a strange day really because I didn’t feel that I played that great but I managed to get a score together and that is the most important thing.”
Four-time European Tour winner Hoey has missed seven of his last 10 cuts, but eight birdies and three bogeys in a 67 suggest the Northern Irishman may be recapturing his best form.
“It’s been a bit up and down, to be honest,” the 34-year-old admitted. “The good stuff is really good but then I am making quite a lot of silly mistakes which is costing me a lot of shots. They are just silly errors that creep in now and then. You just shouldn’t be flying the ball over greens with a wedge in your hand for example, that was probably the most frustrating one today.
“But I need to look at the positives – I am on that leaderboard and in a good position for the weekend,” he added. “If I can get rid of those silly mistakes. then I still have a great chance to win.”
English amateur Jack Singh Brar shot the best round of the day with a 66 to climb more than 50 places and safely make the cut on 1 under.