Golf: Lawrie back in the groove

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The Independent Online
ABERDEEN'S PAUL LAWRIE gave the best possible advertisement for his new coach, Adam Hunter, yesterday by charging into the half-way lead at the Qatar Masters in Doha.

In only his second appearance of the season following a four-month lay- off because of a knee injury, Lawrie added a 65 to his opening 68 and on an 11-under-par total of 133 takes a two-stroke lead into the third round.

Hunter, a fellow Scot who won the Portuguese Open four years ago, has given up playing to concentrate on coaching. "I think he's made a big difference," Lawrie said.

The 30-year-old, rusty when he racked up 13 bogeys in missing the cut in Dubai last week, has still to record one this week and, recalling that his one previous European Tour win came when the 1996 Catalan Open was reduced to 36 holes by high winds, asked: "Can we stop it now?" Lawrie birdied all four par- fives and also picked up shots on the fourth, 11th and 206-yard 13th - where England's John Bickerton holed-in-one on his way to a share of second place with France's Jean van de Velde and the Dane, Soren Kjeldsen.

"When I had those 13 bogeys and finished 10-over last week I couldn't find a fairway," said Lawrie. "This week I've once looked once like making bogey when I saved myself three-putting the 12th by holing a 12-footer."

Bickerton, who played 10 tournaments in Florida during the winter and won five of them, had a 67 and reaped the benefits of keeping his feet on the ground after seeing his three-iron tee shot disappear into the cup.

"After my first hole-in-one" - he has had "five or six" in his life - "I was running round like a chicken, but I tried to keep calm this time," said the 29-year-old. Three holes later he began a run of four successive birdies.

Kjeldsen matched Lawrie's 65, one outside the course record, while Van de Velde had a 66.

The pounds 625,000 tournament has already seen three holes-in-one. Argentina's Eduardo Romero won a pounds 25,000 sports car in the first round for an ace at the 161-yard 17th, but Sweden's Patrik Sjoland's reward for matching that was simply that he made the half-way cut as a result.

Justin Rose has still to do that, however. Despite three closing birdies the 18-year-old from Hampshire, his fourth place in last July's Open now a distant memory, finished on three-over - three too many. He has now crashed out in all 14 events he has played as a professional.

Seve Ballesteros is on his way home too, but the Dubai Desert Classic winner David Howell survived with nothing to spare and Ian Woosnam not just avoided a third successive missed cut, but stayed in contention at six under.

The Ryder Cup captain Mark James, third overnight, is alongside the Welshman and just ahead of them in joint sixth place is Bernard Gallacher's nephew Stephen, thoroughly enjoying his return to the circuit apart from his frequent dashes to the toilet with a stomach problem.

Gallacher, part of the Walker Cup side which beat the United States at Porthcawl in 1995, suffered back injuries the following two seasons, but re-established himself on the Challenge Tour last year.

This was his first appearance back and, after a 68, the 24-year-old said: "When I first came on tour I was a bit awestruck watching Monty, Faldo and Woosie on the range. I've benefited from the Challenge Tour."

In Sydney, the Australian Rodney Pampling overcame high winds to take a one-stroke lead in the Canon Challenge first round yesterday.

He held his game together and fired a five-under-par 67 at the Terry Hills Country Club. His compatriot, Marcus Cain, was one shot back, but last week's Australian Masters winner, Craig Spence, struggled to a 76.

QATAR MASTERS (Doha) Leading second round scores: (GB or Irl unless stated): 133 P Lawrie 68 65. 135 S Kjeldsen (Den) 70 65; J Bickerton 68 67; J Van de Velde (Fr) 69 66. 136 R Russell 66 70. 137 B May (US) 67 70; S Gallacher 69 68. 138 J Spence 71 67; K Wook-soon (Kor) 71 67; P Price 70 68; I Woosnam 68 70; P Nyman (Swe) 68 70; M James 67 71; A Cejka (Ger) 69 69; C Hanell (Swe) 71 67. 139 M Gronberg (Swe) 72 67; G Evans 69 70; K Tomori (Jpn) 69 70; W Riley (Aus) 69 70. 140 A Coltart 71 69; S Tinning (Den) 72 68; M Roe 72 68; F Lindgren (Swe) 72 68; E Romero (Arg) 69 71; W Bennett 71 69; R Chapman 72 68. 141 P McGinley 72 69; G Norquist (US) 74 67; P Harrington 71 70; M Farry (Fr) 66 75; R Goosen (SA) 70 71. 142 P Mitchell 75 67; C Rocca (It) 73 69; S Webster 75 67; I Garbutt 71 71; A Hansen (Den) 72 70; J Rivero (Sp) 72 70; A McLardy (SA) 73 69; V Phillips 70 72; M Jonzon (Swe) 71 71; M Mackenzie 72 70; M Mouland 72 70; MA Martin (Sp) 70 72. 144 D Howell 72 72. Selected non-qualifiers: 147 J Rose 76 71. 148 E Darcy 73 75; S Ballesteros (Sp) 77 71, J Robinson 73 75. 155 S Struver (Ger) 78 77.