Stadler picks up where he left off

European Tour

American Kevin Stadler added a solid three-under-par 68 to his opening 64 to open up a three-shot lead at the Alstom Open de France.

Stadler completed all of 31 holes at Le Golf National in Paris before dropping his first shot, picking up another six birdies to stretch his lead.

His three-shot advantage could have been even better though but for his first serious error at the par-five ninth – his closing hole of the day.

Five under for his round as he approached the ninth tee, Stadler shanked his approach and eventually ran up a double-bogey seven, turning a potential 66 or better into a 68.

“I just tried to get a little too much out of it,” he admitted. “I didn’t have the best of lies and had to hit the shot perfectly. I got a little too steep on it and it came off the hosel and into the deep stuff.

“It was not exactly how I planned to finish the day but overall it was another good day so it’s all good. I putted brilliantly the first couple of days. I got a little sloppy on my final nine today but other than that struck the ball very well as well, had a lot of chances and rolled in a lot of nice putts.”

Since winning his maiden PGA Tour title at the Phoenix Open in February, Stadler finished joint eighth at Augusta National but that has been his only top-ten since.

“It’s been a little rotten the last couple of months but it’s starting to show some signs of form again and I’ve hit plenty of good shots the last couple of days.

“Hopefully I can do more of the same at the weekend, the putter keeps co-operating and I am looking forward to the last couple of days.”

The American’s closest pursuer is local hope Victor Rui, the Frenchman clearly enjoying playing in front of his home supporters as he added a 67 to an opening 68 to finish on seven under, three off Stadler’s total.

Germany’s Marcel Siem follows in third after a one-over 72 and lies one shot clear of as many as seven players – including Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (69), Scot Stephen Gallacher (73), Welshman Jamie Donaldson (72) and England’s Mark Foster (70).

Germany’s US Open champion Martin Kaymer follows on two under.

McDowell admitted the rest of the field was now playing catch-up to Stadler.

“I said to Martin Kaymer it was nearly as good as his at Pinehurst, but not quite,” said McDowell. “It’s a great display of golf.

“It’s Kevin’s type of golf course and if he keeps playing like that he’s going to be tough to catch, but I feel like three under is not a bad return for the last two days and if I can go low tomorrow and get myself back into it, who knows?”

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