Date: May 10, 2008

Fraser stays in touch

Marcus Fraser is tied for sixth place behind Swede Robert Karlsson at the midway point of the Italian Open. Fraser fired a second consecutive round of 67 to finish at 10-under, but a 61 from Karlsson catapulted the Swede to a two-shot lead at the top of the leaderboard. For a few magical moments Karlsson thought he could be just minutes away from becoming the first player ever to score 59 on the European Tour. As with everybody else in that envious position so far it did not happen, but setting a new course record of 61 and equalling the lowest round of his 20-year Tour career was good enough for the Ryder Cup Swede. Having opted for the relatively low-key Italian Open rather than golf&aposs richest event – and that despite finishing sixth in the Players Championship last year – Karlsson leads by two from England&aposs Mark Foster and South African Hennie Otto at halfway. His round at Castello di Tolcinasco just south of Milan even included a drive into water on the 433-yard 13th, his fourth. But the 38-year-old had started with three successive birdies, he then eagled the 15th and first with putts of 30 and 20 feet and when he birdied four of the next six he was 10-under for the day. That meant a birdie-eagle finish on the short eighth and 513-yard ninth would bring that 59. “It did cross my mind, but I&aposve had some problems on eight in the past – I was pretty happy with a three there,” he said. A closing 10-foot birdie putt gave Karlsson a 15-under total which matches the third lowest in Tour history for 36 holes and now his sights are on a win which would lift him from eighth to sixth in the Ryder Cup race. He would have gone to Florida if he had known he was in the field earlier, but confusion over whether the cut-off point for the world&aposs top 50 was this Monday or the previous one made him decide to stay in Europe. Karlsson, currently ranked 48th, added: “There are many plusses to coming here. It cuts down on the travelling and I get to see the kids on Monday too before going to Ireland.” Otto, battling to regain a full Tour card, added a 66 to his opening 65, while Foster hit back from a double bogey with two birdies in his last three holes for a 66. Nick Dougherty, just three days on from his mother&aposs funeral, lost a ball and also took six on the par-four sixth, but he was still round in 66 for seven under. John Daly, however, managed to follow up his 67 with only a 73 for four under and had to wait for confirmation that he had survived the cut. Matthew Millar is the next best placed Aussie, a second round of 70 placing him in a tie for 35 at six-under, one shot clear of compatriot Scott Barr in equal 47th place. Second Round of the Italian Open (Par 72): -15: Robert Karlsson 68 61 -13: Mark Foster 65 66, Hennie Otto 65 66 -11: Estanislao Goya 66 67, Anders Hansen 68 65 -10: Phillip Archer 70 64, Bradley Dredge 69 65, Marcus Fraser (Australia) 67 67, Maarten Lafeber 68 66, Christian Nilsson 67 67, Marco Ruiz 64 70, Alvaro Velasco 70 64 -9: Shiv Kumar 70 65, Sam Little 69 66, David Lynn 68 67, Ross McGowan 64 71, Marc Warren 65 70, Steve Webster 66 69, Oliver Wilson 66 69 Also: -6: Matthew Millar (Australia) 68 70 -5: Scott Barr (Australia) 70 69, Gareth Paddison (New Zealand) 67 72 -2: Peter Fowler (Australia) 72 70 E: Peter Alker (New Zealand) 75 69 +13: Terry Pilkadaris (Australia) 81 76