Briton equals course record

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The Independent Online

England's Steve Richardson reversed his recent wretched form in Paris yesterday. The 28-year-old former Ryder Cup player equalled both the course record and the best round of his life with a nine-under-par 63.

Richardson now leads the tournament with a 13-under-par total of 131 at half-way. The European No 1 Colin Montgomerie, however, sank a nine- foot eagle putt on the final green for a 69 but discovered that he had still missed the cut.

His two-under aggregate was one too many, and he criticised the course for being too easy. "I prefer to play where the errant drive is punished," he said. "Here the ball goes further the wider you go. It's a good course made easy by having no rough."

Richardson, 146th on this season's money list before the event, has a two-stroke advantage over the Ulsterman Raymond Burns, with Ian Woosnam, defending champion Paul Broadhurst and South African Retief Goosen one shot further back.

"This is the first time in a long while I've felt comfortable with my swing," Richardson said. "I've been trying to shorten it a bit - sometimes with the driver I could see the tip of the club out of the corner of my eye."

Burns shaved a stroke off his opening 67 to move into second place and then gave a very different view of Le National to Montgomerie. "It's a pleasure to play on a course with good greens, good bunkers, good fairways and good tee boxes," said the 22-year-old former Walker Cup amateur.

Broadhurst, winner by eight last year, was only a shot away from his own course record as the work he has put in this season with Montgomerie's coach, Bill Ferguson, showed its first real dividend with a 64.

Woosnam, another Ferguson pupil, was delighted with his latest new putter as he returned 65. "It's the best I've felt on the greens in a long while," said the Welshman, who needs a top-five finish to regain top place in the Order of Merit from Montgomerie. Goosen also eagled the last - and so did Ballesteros, for a 66 that left him six under and smiling broadly.