Golf: Chapman racing for victory

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The Independent Online
Who says you can't play golf in England in May? Although there was some rain in the morning, there was no wind, it was warm and the greens were receptively soft.

Jose Coceres, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood all took advantage with rounds of 64, but when the sun came out in the afternoon, Jay Townsend extended the course record to 63. None of this worried Roger Chapman too much.

Should Chapman achieve his first victory in his 16 years on the Tour, the celebration party is likely to rival Paul Gascoigne's little bash for his wedding at the luxury hotel-cum-clubhouse here last year. Chapman maintained his lead in the Alamo English Open with a second successive 66, which took him two clear of Steve Webster.

Unlike his first round, Chapman dropped four shots, including one at the last. That was fully compensated by eight birdies and an eagle at the 10th when he holed his five-iron approach shot from 183 yards. "It was a funny old day," the 38-year-old said.

"The bogeys seemed to come out of nowhere, but I holed some really good putts. I was not in the lead by the time I started and that took the pressure off. I had a score to aim for." As to the possibility of a magic moment on Sunday night, the former owner of a horse called Pepper the Pin said: "I'm over Beecher's Brook, now I've got to get over Valentine's and the Chair."

Webster, 22, had taken the lead briefly after adding a 66 to his first- round 68, but it did not last much longer than his leadership of the Open on the second morning at St Andrews in 1995. "It was only for a couple of holes and the crowd swelled to about four," he recalled. Webster went on to take the silver medal as low amateur ahead of such luminaries as Tiger Woods and Gordon Sherry.

At the end of that season, Webster decided to turn professional and came top at the Qualifying School. "I didn't know what I'd done," he said. "Six rounds of golf and suddenly I was on the European Tour playing with people like Ian Woosnam. Three months before, I'd be playing county golf. It's toughened me up, though." Webster missed his first eight cuts and despite earning pounds 40,800, he lost his card by finishing 129th on the money list, which meant a second trip to the Qualifying School.

Returning to an old set of clubs and picking the brains of some of the tour's senior caddies helped him to fourth place in the Italian Open two weeks ago. This week he has Andy Prodger, Nick Faldo's former caddie, on his bag. "I need someone like Andy to hold me back and not go for the pins all the time," Webster said. "I am now concentrating on going for the middle of the greens. You have to play percentage golf on tour."

Webster did just that with a driver to 10 feet at the first, a dogleg par-four of 347 yards. Then he three-putted, but an eagle-birdie finish meant he matched his inward 33 on the way home.

Townsend, an American who commutes on tour from Florida, is a hunter in his spare time, but yesterday was only shooting birdies. Nine of them - including an eight-iron to 10 inches at the short 16th. Westwood put in a sparkling finish of four birdies and an eagle in his last six holes.

Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal were two to miss out on the low scoring. Or, at least, Montgomerie returned a 68 with a birdie and an eagle in his last four holes to make sure of making the cut. But he was not happy. Having advertised his inability to get up and down prior to the tournament, Monty failed to do just that on all his five opportunities.

"It was mediocre stuff," he said. "My chipping is diabolical and my putting's not good. I'm not being hard on myself." Olazabal was also visibly upset with himself on the course, something he had tried to avoid since his return to competitive golf. He, too, flirted with the cut in a round of 72, but was safe at three under.

ENGLISH OPEN (Hanbury Manor, Herts) Early leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 132 R Chapman 66 66. 134 S Webster 68 66. 136 D Clarke 72 64. 137 J Coceres (Arg) 73 64. 138 R Karlsson (Swe) 71 67; R Claydon 69 69. 139 P Haugsrud (Nor) 70 69; M James 72 67; G Clark 71 68. 140 S McAllister 71 69; C Whitelaw (SA) 73 67; S Ames (Trin) 68 72; N Fasth (Swe) 70 70; F Valera (Sp) 72 68; D Carter 73 67; C Montgomerie 72 68; W Riley (Aus) 69 71. 141 G Orr 71 70; M Florioli (It) 75 66; P Price 73 68; S Cage 71 70; M A Martin (Sp) 73 68; P Lonard (Aus) 71 70. 142 A Forsbrand (Swe) 70 72; J Sandelin (Swe) 72 70; S Luna (Sp) 73 69; P Linhart (Sp) 71 71; J Spence 70 72; P Mitchell 72 70; J Van de Velde (Fr) 74 68. 143 S Allan (Aus) 73 70; M Davis 73 70; A Hunter 71 72; M Goggin (Aus) 75 68; M Pinero (Sp) 73 70; C Rocca (It) 76 67; I Garrido (Sp) 74 69; C Mason 70 73; P Curry 71 72; A Cabrera (Arg) 76 67. 144 E Darcy 74 70; M Lanner (Swe) 70 74; P Fulke (Swe) 73 71; H Clark 71 73; V Phillips 73 71. 145 R Goosen (SA) 72 73; R Allenby (Aus) 73 72. 146 C O'Connor Jnr 71 75; M Gronberg (Swe) 70 76; O Karlsson (Swe) 70 76; B May (US) 75 71.