Gillis inspired by mixed memories

The American Tom Gillis shot a seven-under-par 64 here yesterday to move to the top of the Belgian Open leaderboard at the course where two years ago a closing putt changed his life.

The American Tom Gillis shot a seven-under-par 64 here yesterday to move to the top of the Belgian Open leaderboard at the course where two years ago a closing putt changed his life.

Gillis, one shot ahead of the Irishman, Padraig Harrington, at the halfway stage, equalled his lowest score in Europe to move to 131 and 11 under. He owed his lead to five birdies in six holes after the turn.

Harrington, who just missed a birdie at the last to match Gillis, has yet to chalk up any Ryder Cup points in the third week of qualifying but threatens a big haul after carding a second-round 67. That took him two shots ahead of three morning front-runners, Lee Westwood and Gary Evans, both of Britain, the South African Roger Wessels, and France's Marc Farry who played in the afternoon.

Westwood has the chance to move back to the top of the European rankings after Darren Clarke, the money-list leader, missed the cut. Gillis has no Ryder Cup aspirations but has the chance to record his first win from 106th place on the European rankings.

Recalling his trials and tribulations in Belgium two years ago, Gillis explained how he had prepared himself for tackling the Royal Zoute course this year. "I holed a putt on the last here two years ago which I thought was pretty important at the time. It gave me 39th place and I kept my card by $280 (£186).

"But it also probably cost me a divorce because my wife could not handle the golf and me being away. In the end something that was supposed to have given me one of the happiest moments of my life turned into one of the biggest downs. I've gradually got my life together. But the pressure is always there so I did a crazy thing after last week's Lancome Trophy - I went home for a week.

"I came here completely recharged. Nothing much happened for 27 holes but then the putter got hot and that makes you fearless.

Colin Montgomerie, trying to get back into the race for the European No 1 spot, fought back from a poor start with an eagle and two birdies to card a 69 and lie seven off the lead.

BELGIAN OPEN (Knokke) Leading second-round scores (GB and Irl unless stated): 131 T Gillis (US) 67 64. 132 P Harrington (Irl) 65 67. 134 L Westwood 65 69; G Evans 66 68; R Wessels. (SA) 70 64; M Farry (Fr) 65 69. 135 J-F Remesy (Fr) 66 69; A Raitt 66 69; J Coceres (Arg) 68 67; P Quirici (Swit) 70 65; R Davis (Aus) 70 65; A Raitt 66 69. 136 O Karlsson (Swe) 65 71; H Otto (SA) 64 72; P McGinley (Irl) 68 68; E Romero (Argentina) 69 67; D Park 68 68; S Gallacher 68 68; D Robertson 69 67. 137 T Levet (Fr) 69 68; A Wall 68 69; G Emerson 68 69; J Berendt (Arg) 69 68; J Lomas 70 67; N O'Hern (Aus) 69 68. 138 S Scahill (NZ) 65 73; A Forsyth 69 69; S Field 71 67; I Poulter 71 67; C Montgomerie 69 69; R Winchester 69 69; P Affleck 66 72; S Hansen (Den) 67 71.

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