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Host Jimenez, Manassero vying for top spot at Andalucia Open

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MARBELLA, Spain – Tournament host Miguel Angel Jimenez is determined to spoil the party for invited guests after moving into a share of second place after two rounds of the Andalucia Open on Friday.

Jimenez, who has been hosting the Spanish tournament for six years, recorded six birdies in a 4-under 68 and a 7-under total of 136 on the Aloha course in Marbella.

Fellow Spaniard Eduardo De la Riva, currently ranked 610th in the world, recorded a 69 to top the leaderboard at 8 under.

Jimenez, a two-time Andalucia Open winner, shares second with fellow Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal (69), Italy’s Matteo Manassero (73), Ireland’s Damien McGrane and England’s Tommy Fleetwood (69).

Jimenez is using the tournament as a final warm-up before making his 14th appearance at the Masters next month. He is currently ranked 51, but qualified for the year’s first major for being inside the top 50 as of Dec. 31.

“I am only one shot behind the leader and it will be nice to be there in front on Sunday,” he said. “I have played a lot of golf recently competing in the two WGC events in America so this will be my last event before Augusta.

“But this week has been very tough and very busy for me helping organize the event and while I have a lot of good people around me it always takes me forever to go from point A to B.”

Manassero, who enjoyed a three-stroke lead heading into Day 2, struggled to 3 over for 12 holes but managed to birdie 15 and 18 to get back to within a stroke of the lead.

The 18-year-old Manassero, who again played in the company of Jimenez, said: “I talked a lot with Miguel about age difference as he is 30 years older than me. But I love playing with him because I learn a lot from his experience. He joined the tour when he was 24, and he has played in the majors and Ryder Cups so hopefully I will get to play with him again.”

Manassero kept alive his hope of making his professional debut at Augusta but with just a fortnight of qualifying remaining, the teenager needs to win this week and also finish second next week in Morocco and or vice versa.

Also looking to secure a maiden Masters appearance is England’s Robert Rock, winner of the recent Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Rock, who is six places outside the top 50, is among eight players also well-placed at 6 under.

“That’s why I am playing this week and next week in Morocco to try and qualify for Augusta,” said Rock after his round of 67.

“I’ve never ever been to Augusta before so it would be nice to play but if not this year, then I feel as though I should have a better chance next year.”