Versailles, France – Denmark's Thomas Bjorn and South African Richard Sterne on Friday moved into a tie with overnight leader Anders Hansen on five under par at the French Open with the Dane set to tee off at Le Golf National.
Bjorn, who famously collapsed at the 2003 British Open when he blew a two stroke lead with three holes to play, endured another frustrating day when he bogeyed the final two holes after seizing a two shot lead thanks to five birdies through 16 holes.
The two-time Ryder Cup winner slipped back into a tie with Hansen and Sterne, who picked up three straight birdies down the stretch on the way to a round of two under par 69 and a total of 137.
Stern, who won his ninth tournament earlier this year when he took the honours at the Johannesburg Open, is again set to challenge for the title at the 97th edition of a tournament set to host the 2018 Ryder Cup.
In a log-jammed leaderboard, five players were locked on four under and one shot adrift.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell moved into contention with a solid round while Scotland's Stephen Gallacher bogeyed the 18th to also drop to four under after a second round 70.
McDowell was enjoying a bogey free round through 16 holes which included three birdies before dropping a stroke at the tough 17th which deprived him a share of the lead.
Thirty-five-year-old Graeme Storm from Hartlepool, northeast England, had five birdies on the way to a three-under par round of 68 and is also well placed at one shot back.
French hope Romain Wattel begins his second round later Friday after an opening round of 67 while veteran Australian Richard Green took advantage of an eagle on the third hole as he climbed to three under during a round that was stained by a bogey at the last.
The 42-year-old Bjorn was in sparkling form with three birdies over the first five holes after beginning his round on the back nine.
A bogey on the par four 18th was his only blemish before he moved into the outright lead with a birdie on the third hole as he tackled the front nine.
Another birdie at the par four fifth extended his lead before back-to-back bogeys on the final holes ruined his round.
Spaniard Alejandro Canizares – son of five-time European Tour winner Jose Maria – held a hot putter as he nailed seven birdies through 16 holes before a double bogey at the 17th and a bogey at the last undid all his good work.
He finished the day with a two-under par 69 and is three back.
Hansen, who is set to undergo surgery on his left hand next Tuesday, remained optimistic about his chances.
“This course seems to treat me very well and I'm playing well, so I do like this place and I do like this golf course,” said Hansen after his opening 66. – Sapa-AFP