Grace in control

Hampshire Chronicle: Branden Grace is enjoying a stunning week at the Dunhill Links Championship Branden Grace is enjoying a stunning week at the Dunhill Links Championship

Branden Grace held the biggest halfway lead of the European Tour season after a second-round 67 in the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews on Friday.

Having begun the £3million pro-celebrity event with an incredible Tour record-equalling 60 at Kingsbarns, the 24-year-old South African marched five strokes clear by reaching 17 under par at halfway.

Dane Thorbjorn Olesen and Swede Joel Sjoholm are in joint second place and you have to look a long way way down the leaderboard to find many of the big names.

"I just don't really knows what's going on," said Grace, who was outside the world's top 300 less than a year ago, came through the Tour qualifying school and now has a chance of an incredible fifth victory of the season.

The fourth came last Sunday in his home country's winter series and was slightly overshadowed, of course, by Europe's miraculous Ryder Cup comeback.

"A win is a win," he added. "It gives you confidence and puts a fire in you. I'm still just running with it."

German Martin Kaymer, the man who sank the all-important putt for Jose Maria Olazabal's side in Chicago, is doing best of the three returning heroes, but he is down in 56th place on three under - 14 strokes adrift.

Swede Peter Hanson is one further back, but Paul Lawrie is joint 129th on one over - and only the top 60 and ties survive the cut after tomorrow's third round.

The one thing in their favour is that they still have St Andrews to play whereas Grace has Carnoustie to come and that is by far the stiffest test of the three.

Also in a fight to stay around for Sunday's closing 18 holes at St Andrews are Open champion Ernie Els on one under, twice winner Padraig Harrington on level par and last year's Open winner Darren Clarke, who is alongside Lawrie.

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