VERSAILLES, France – Spain's Alejandro Canizares finished his second round with three consecutive birdies on Friday to take the halfway lead at the French Open.
They contributed to the 27-year-old's second straight 5-under 66, and his 10-over total took him one shot ahead of Germany's Martin Kaymer, whose attempt to repeat his 2009 victory in Versailles gained momentum with a 67, which took him to 9-under.
As Canizares attempts this weekend to add to his only previous European victory, the 2006 Russian Open, he will draw inspiration from two other winners on the Tour this year.
Canizares lost his playing rights last season and got them back only by finishing fourth at Europe's qualifying School late last autumn.
Of that Q School class of 2009, Simon Khan, the winner, won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and Fredrik Andersson Hed won the recent Italian Open title.
“I played with Simon in the first rounds,” Canizares said. “And he played great to win at Wentworth and Fredrik did well to win in Italy and now I trying to follow them with a win.
“Before I went to tour school I had got negative about playing golf and had a couple of personal issues, but since then I have started to appreciate playing golf a lot more and trying to have a bit of fun.”
Canizares was lying only two shots behind the first-round leader, Robert-Jan Derksen of the Netherlands, when he began. The gap grew when, after setting out from the 10th tee, he double bogeyed the par-four 17th hole after driving into deep rough and failing to make the fairway with his first recovery attempt.
The whole field was then subject to a two-and-half-hour delay as a rain and lightning storm forced play to be suspended.
When the players returned, Canizares’ putter was in the groove. He produced four birdies in his closing five holes to move past Derksen, who had carded level 71 before lunch.
Kaymer, who was also in the group taken off the course, holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th but was unable to repeat it on the final green, which would have given him a share of the lead.
After his round, he talked confidently about his chances of becoming the first player to win two straight French Opens since Jean Francois Remesy in 2004-5.
“I really fancy this golf course,” Kaymer said. “I didn't make many mistakes out there and I feel that everything is coming together with my golf at the right time.”
Derksen dropped back into third place at 8-under, one shot ahead of England's Steve Webster, who moved to 7-under with a 5-under 66.