Date: March 22, 2008

Otto breezes into top spot

South African Hennie Otto burst clear of the field at the Madeira Islands Open on Friday as Gareth Paddison and Wade Ormsby proved the best of the Australasian contingent. Hennie, though, defied a two-and-a-half-hour delay caused by gusts of up to 35mph as he set about leading the field into the weekend. The 31-year-old from Boksburg, denied his first European Tour win five years ago when Padraig Harrington sank a closing 20-foot birdie putt in Hong Kong, returned a second successive 67 to reach halfway at 10 under. That put him four clear of Germany&aposs Sven Struver and Swede Fredrik Widmark, who because of the earlier hold-up, were unable to finish their second rounds before nightfall. Struver, who led by one after his opening 66, covered the front nine in a level par 36 before play was called off, while Widmark had managed only six holes. Favourite Bradley Dredge was a massive 11 strokes adrift following a 75 in which he dropped five shots in his last six holes. The Welshman needs to win to move back into the world&aposs top 50 a week before the cut-off for the Masters, but was down in joint 33rd spot. Former Open champion Paul Lawrie withdrew with back trouble – he had opened with a 76 – while Dredge&aposs World Cup-winning partner Stephen Dodd managed to add only a 79 to his first round 75. Otto is trying to regain his European Tour card and the highlight of his round was a chip-in eagle two at the 395-yard 10th. He then followed it with birdies on the 12th and 14th for an inward 32. American Notah Begay stood one under and joint 15th after seven holes. The windy conditions had affected Kiwi hope Gareth Paddison as well. The New Zealander had produced a solid two-under 70 on the opening day but had dropped two strokes in his first 14 holes on Friday (Portugal time) to be at even-par overall and 10 shots adrift of Otto. One stroke further back was Australian hope Ormsby, who had posted two birdies and two bogeys on his first 10 holes to be one stroke ahead of compatriot Matthew Millar, who had picked up a stroke after an opening-round 75. Millar is alongside New Zealand&aposs Steve Alker , who managed a two-under 70 in his second round to be at two-under overall, while Australia&aposs Peter Fowler (71) is further back down the leaderboard following his opening round 79 on Thursday. Second Round of the Madeira Islands Open (Play Suspended) (Par 72): -10: Hennie Otto 67 67 -6: Sven Struver 66, Fredrik Widmark 68 -5: Adilson Da Silva 71 68 -4: Alastair Forsyth 70 70 -3: Raphael Eyraud 70 71, Joakim Backstrom 72, John Bickerton, 69, Michael Lorenzo-Vera 68, Mattias Eliasson 70, Miles Tunnicliff 71 -2: Andrew Oldcorn 71 71, Peter Gustafsson 68, Matthew King 69 -1: Pablo Larrazabal 73 70, Hugo Santos 72 71, Juan Abbate 74, Gregory Bourdy 68, Notah Begay III 71, Gary Clark 72, Jamie McLeary 72 Also: E: Gareth Paddison (New Zealand) 70 +1: Wade Ormsby (Australia) 73 +2: Steve Alker (New Zealand) 76 70, Matthew Millar (Australia) 75 +6: Peter Fowler (Australia) 79 71