Benson and Hedges International Open
Benson and Hedges International Open
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Harrington takes halfway lead

European Ryder Cup star Padraig Harrington topped the leaderboard at the half-way stage of the Benson & Hedges International at the Belfry with a three-under-par second round of 69.

The Irishman, who is likely to face the American Ryder Cup team on this course next year, looked at ease on the slopes of the Sutton Coldfield course in the £1million tournament.

After he finished the second day at four-under-par, one shot ahead of earlier leader Welshman Phil Price, he praised his coach Bob Torrance, father of Ryder Cup skipper Sam, for his good form.

He said: "I can't say enough about the help I'm getting from Bob. I think he's a genius actually. His ideas always seem to make sense. I've worked very hard on my swing for 18 months and I'm improving all the time.

Harrington has the lead after Price bogeyed the final two holes, having improved to five-under-par. Just behind him, Shropshire player Jonathon Lomas continued his fine form to finish two shots off the lead.

Lomas, who finished as runner-up behind Colin Montgomerie in last week’s French Open, will hope to go one better at the Belfry.

European number one Montgomerie had a far better day on Friday, matching Harrington’s 69 to finish at one-over-par, one ahead of Jose Maria Olazabal.

Another European legend Seve Ballesteros also improved, but only in the same way as a punch in the nose is better than a poke in the eye. The Spaniard, who finished the first day a horrendous 15-over-par, ended up at 25-over-par.

Ian Woosnam, who partnered Seve, said: "It's a shame - a great shame." The other member of the trio Peter Baker, added: "You have to admire him for sticking at it."

The Spaniard's previous worst had been 24 over after rounds of 80 and 86 at last year's British Open at Carnoustie.

Ballesteros, who scored a stunning victory over European number one Colin Montgomerie in the Seve Ballesteros Trophy last month, had three double bogeys on Friday.

His round was marginally better than Thursday's when his 87 included a quadruple bogey, two triple bogeys, a double bogey and five bogeys.

Ballesteros's misery was completed when he discovered a plaque to commemorate one of his famous achievements at the course had been removed because of vandals.

The plaque was erected at the par-four 10th where he was the first to hit the island green from the tee in a 1976 tournament.

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