Wilson back on the winning track?

European Tour

A magnificent 7-under 65 on the second day of the Madeira Islands Open has given Oliver Wilson the halfway lead.

A magnificent 7-under 65 on the second day of the Madeira Islands Open has given Oliver Wilson his first lead in a European Tour event since November 2008.

Wilson, who earned a Ryder Cup cap before his form deserted him and who could only finish 130th in last year’s Race to Dubai and lost his tour card as a result, hasn’t dropped a shot in the two rounds he has played at Santo da Serra this week and clearly looks to be on the comeback trail.

As it is, he will head into the weekend rounds leading by a shot from the Swedes, Magnus A Carlsson and Joakim Lagergren, who have so far each shot id1entical 66s in both rounds, and England’s Andy Sullivan, who added a fine 64 to his opening 68.

Ricardo Santos, a graduate from the 2011 Challenge Tour, is the leading Portuguese player at nine under, but compatriot Nuno Henriques got the biggest cheer from the gallery when he shot an albatross at the par five 11th – he holed his second shot with a four iron.

Wilson, a nine-time runner-up on the European Tour, has made eight appearances so far this season – six on sponsor’s invitations – but has made only €22,084, so he was especially pleased to be on top of the leaderboard as he attempts to win a maiden European Tour title.

The last time he was in pole position on The European Tour was after 54 holes at the 2008 Hong Kong Open. Obviously he didn’t win

“I played nicely today,” said the 31 year old, who was in the European Team at the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla.

“The fact I haven’t had a bogey for two rounds shows I’m playing solidly and sensibly.

“I actually feel like I left a few out there today. I missed three putts from inside six feet. But I made a couple of really good par saves – not from bad shots, but just because the course is tricky.

“There’s a long way to go and the scoring will carry on being low, but I’ll keep pushing on and trying to make birdies. There will inevitably be some mistakes at the weekend, but it’s just a question of trying to limit them. You’ve got to be patient.

“The course is playing very differently from how it was yesterday. It’s a lot softer today and the ball is stopping very quickly on the greens, which wasn’t the case yesterday. It was easier hitting into the greens today.”

Wilson is convinced that a technical adjustment to his putter is a major factor behind his improving form.

“I changed the loft of my putter and it is working. The less I think about the set-up the better, and if you are standing over putts and know they are rolling well, it makes a big difference.”

Sullivan, who played in the Walker Cup last year, also had a bogey-free day and also attributed his superb round, which featured six birdies and an eagle, to an improved putting technique.

“It’s just great to see the ball rolling into the hole,” said the 24 year old. “It makes a nice change. I saw (putting coach) Phil Ken yon last Friday and we’ve changed a few things technique-wise, and it seems to be paying off.

“I’m hitting the ball nicely too. It’s the first time I’ve been in this position so I’m just going to take it as it comes and try and enjoy it. The only thing I can do is keep doing what I’ve been doing, as it’s worked so far.

“I’d heard a lot about this event from the other guys – about how bad the weather can be and the delays – but it’s been excellent so far and I’m enjoying it.”

Lagergren is another player who is new to The European Tour, and the 20 year old Qualifying School graduate was delighted with the way he played on Friday.

“My ball striking is the best part of my game this week,” he said.

“I played really badly in the final round in Seville last week so it is nice to be playing better here this week.

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