Aiken leads in Barcelona

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South Africa’s Thomas Aiken will take a one-shot lead into the third round of the Spanish Open in Barcelona.

South Africa’s Thomas Aiken will take a one-shot lead into the third round of the Spanish Open in Barcelona.

Aiken is playing in his first tournament after returning from a seven-week layoff, and it appears as if the break has done him no harm at all.

The 27-year-old Aiken, who spent a month in the Bahamas where he did not even pick up a golf club, shot his second consecutive 68 at El Prat to grab a slender one-shot lead over local favourite Pablo Larrazabal, who followed up his opening-round 67 with a 70.

Four players lie a further shot behind Larrazabal – first-round leader Scott Jamieson, France’s Romain Wattel, Spaniard Alvaro Velasco, whose 66 was the low round of the day, and England’s Anthony Wall.

First-round leader Jamieson shot a 72 to follow up his opening 66, though it looked like it could be much worse after he dropped three shots in his first six holes.

“I was happy to claw it back. More wind made it a bit tricky, but if you hit it well there are plentyh of opportunities for birdies,” said Jamieson.

“I struggled with my pace on the greens all day.”

Aiken, a six-time winner on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, but yet to taste victory in Europe, made six birdies and two bogeys in his 68, just like he’d done in the first round.

“When I started (practising) again I thought ‘what the hell have you done?’ because everything felt so strange,” he said.

“I wasn’t expecting much this week. I was using it to prepare for the rest of the season.”

Larrazabal and Velasco found themselves in the hunt after what ended up being an emotional day for the Spanish contingent, as news of Seve Ballesteros’ worsening condition emerged.

Playing together, Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez were said to be in tears after their second rounds.

Should a Spaniard emerge the winner this week, his win will almost certainly be dedicated to Spain’s greatest ever golfer.

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