Three underdogs share lead in Spain, where most big names miss cut

rikard karlberg
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Co-leader Rikard Karlberg of Sweden, who doesn't even have a European Tour card, shot 67-65 in the first two rounds.
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PA Sport

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Published: Friday, March 25, 2011 | 6:49 p.m.

More than 20 players are separated by only four strokes at the halfway stage of the European Tour’s Andalucia Open, but the event has lost many of its big names.

Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg, who doesn’t even have a European Tour card, shares the top spot on 8 under par with Denmark’s Jeppe Huldahl and Dutchman Maarten Lafeber.

2011 ANDALUCIA OPEN

European Tour star Miguel Angel Jimenez is the promoter of the Andalucia Open, which is played in his hometown of Malaga, Spain.

However, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Darren Clarke and tournament promoter Miguel Angel Jimenez all failed to survive the cut, along with Australian Richard Green, who had to win to have a chance of qualifying for the Masters in two weeks.

Karlberg, who is playing on an invite, followed up his opening 65 with a 67 and would have led on his own but for three-putting the 16th late in the day.

Former Wales Open champion Huldahl had set the mark with a second successive 66 while Lafeber, whose only Tour win came in the 2003 Dutch Open, shot 65.

Scotland's 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie is one behind along with England's Jamie Elson and five-time Japanese Tour winner Tetsuji Hiratsuka, another of the invited players.

Green's chances of climbing into the world's top 50 and so earning a second appearance at Augusta National were slim even if he had taken the title on Sunday. But the left-hander had a second successive 71 for 2 over and missed the cut by three, as did Montgomerie after a 72 that means the 47-year-old's search for a first top-10 finish since June 2008 goes on.

Olazabal, the Scot's successor as Ryder Cup captain, and Clarke bowed out on 1 over and Jimenez on 5 over.

Karlberg's third-place finish in the Singapore Open last November would normally have earned him a card for this season. But because he had joined the Challenge Tour and didn’t play the required seven events, he didn’t qualify for inclusion on the Order of Merit and so was left seeking invitations.

"It was not too nice,” said the 24-year-old from Gothenburg, twice a winner on the Asian Tour and that circuit’s rookie of the year last season. “I didn't have a category at all."

Victory on Sunday would make him exempt, while Huldahl is fully aware that his exemption for winning at Celtic Manor in 2009 runs out at the end of the year. The 28-year-old slumped outside Europe's top 150 last season and has embarked on swing changes to try to secure his future.

"To be a more stable player I had to have a better swing," he said.

Lafeber is the most experienced of the trio out in front, but the 36-year-old has only one title in nearly 340 appearances on the circuit.

Lawrie, round in 67, will sense a big chance to end nearly nine years without a win, while at 3 under after posting the same score, England's 50-year-old Barry Lane is still in the hunt to become the oldest winner in Tour history.