Lyle's birdie cuts it fine

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The Independent Online

Two Swedish golfers, Robert Karlsson and Freddie Lindgren, lead the way after two rounds of the Mediterranean Open in Valencia but it was four Scottish players who provided most of the drama yesterday.

Sam Torrance, who has set his heart on playing in the Ryder Cup for the eighth successive time, shot a 67 for a total of 135, two shots behind Karlsson and one adrift of Lindgren.

Brian Barnes, who will be 50 in June, shot 65, the best round of the day, and his old Ryder Cup partner Bernard Gallacher, making a rare tournament appearance, was among the 77 golfers who qualified for the last two days. But it was Sandy Lyle who provided the most excitement when he came to the 492-yard 18th hole needing a birdie four to make the cut.

Lyle has been out of action for the past 14 weeks and, after a 73 in the first round, needed a good score to stay in the tournament. But he dropped a shot at the second hole and had only two birdies in the next 16 holes as the putts refused to drop.

The long-hitting Lyle chose to hit a two-iron off the tee and just missed the green on the right with his second shot. He chipped to three feet and calmly knocked in the putt for a total of 143, the last qualifying score.

"Are there any strong drinks," he joked as he came off the green. "If I ever needed a putt that was it. I wouldn't have liked to have missed the cut in my first tournament for three months."

Karlsson, who had shot a course record 64 in the first round, added a satisfactory 69 yesterday, while Lindgren, with rounds of 66 and 68 is playing his best golf for more than two years.

But with three other players, Ross McFarlane, Costantino Rocca and Vicente Fernandez on 135 as well as Torrance, the tournament is still wide open.

Torrance finished with five birdies in his last seven holes, but admitted it was because he became angry after missing a five-foot putt at the 10th hole and one of a foot at the 11th.

"I really gave it a swipe at the 12th and hit my drive well over 300 yards," he said. "I birdied that hole and then it all fell into place. Maybe I should get angry more often."

Torrance is certainly not lacking in confidence. "Since the Ryder Cup points-counting tournaments began I've only once been outside the top 20 in eight events," he said.