Garcia Takes Solo Lead in Switzerland


CRANS-SUR-SIERRE, Switzerland -- Sergio Garcia fired a 6-under 65 on Friday to move three strokes clear of the field after two rounds of the European Masters. Garcia completed 36 holes at 11-under-par 131.
Garry Houston, who shared the first-round lead with Jarmo Sandelin and David Carter, posted a 2-under 69 to take second place at 8-under-par 134. Jean Van de Velde matched Garcia's 65 to climb into third place at minus-7.
Pierre Fulke, Martin Erlandsson, Paul Broadhurst and Graeme Storm were one stroke further back at 6-under-par 136.
Garcia got off to a quick start with a birdie on No. 10, his first. He parred three straight holes before a birdie on the 14th got him to minus-7.
The Spaniard parred out his opening nine at Crans-sur-Sierre. Around the turn, Garcia birdied the first for the second straight round.
He stumbled to his lone bogey on the par-3 third. Garcia drove the fifth green at the short par-4 hole and rolled in his 7-foot eagle putt to climb to minus-9.
'I finally hit that green,' Garcia said referring to the fifth. 'I've been trying for three years. I finally hit it high enough and it was nice to see it finish so close.'
Garcia drove the green at No. 7, another short par-4, and two-putted for birdie, his second in as many days on that hole. The 25-year-old birdied the par-5 ninth to close at 11 under.
'The golf course is playing tougher than last year, but I've just managed to play a bit better,' said Garcia. 'I hit the ball nicely today and hit a lot of good putts. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make many, but I felt I hit a lot of good ones which didn't go in.'
Houston flew out of the gate as he eagled the first for the second straight round. However, he tripped to consecutive bogeys from the fourth to slip back to minus-6.
The Welshman got one stroke back with a birdie on the par-4 sixth. Houston tripped to another bogey at No. 8, but atoned for that error with a birdie on the 10th.
Houston faltered to his fourth bogey on the par-3 13th. He bounced back with a birdie on 14 and made it two straight as he birdied the par-5 15th for the second day in a row. Houston closed with three pars.
Carter struggled to a 1-over 72. He shares eighth place with Leif Westerberg, Peter Lawrie and Anders Hansen at 5-under-par 137. Sandelin is one stroke further back at minus-4 after carding a 73 on Friday. He was joined there by defending champion Luke Donald.
The cut line fell at 1-over-par 143 with 78 players making the grade. Edoardo Molinari, the U.S. Amateur winner, survived on the number. Among those who failed to make the weekend were Soren Kjeldsen (144), Paul Lawrie (145) and Costantino Rocca (147).
This event is serving as the first tournament for European players to earn points as they attempt to qualify for the 2006 European Ryder Cup team.
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