Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

G-Mac: Kevin Stadler was too hot to handle

Bit of previous: Graeme McDowell is the defending champion at the French Open and lies in joint fourth place this year

American Kevin Stadler celebrated Independence Day by claiming a three-shot lead in the Alstom Open de France, despite a dreaded shank on the final hole of his second round.

Stadler carded a flawless opening 64 at Le Golf National and did not drop his first shot of the tournament until his 32nd hole at the 2018 Ryder Cup venue on the outskirts of Paris.

But after bouncing back in style with birdies on the next two holes, the world number 62 shanked his approach to the par-five ninth – his final hole – into heavy rough to run up a double-bogey seven.

"I just tried to get a little too much out of it," Stadler, who had to settle for a 68, said. "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."

Asked if he felt that a score of 10 under par had been on the cards, Stadler added: "Absolutely not, especially not through two days. I'd be very excited and, in fact, I'd probably still take it at the end of the week. It's definitely a ball-striker's golf course.

"It has a lot of good, really definitive lines off the tees, really shapes the shots for you. It presents itself and says, 'Here is what you need to do, go ahead and do it,' so you don't have to be overly creative.

"It's just a really good golf course, the greens are great and I am certainly enjoying it so far."

Stadler's nearest challenger is Parisian Victor Riu, whose only bogey in a round of 67 came on the 18th.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell added a 69 to his opening 70 to finish three under par – a share of fourth place with six other players – and was quick to acknowledge Stadler's superb performance. "I said to (US Open champion) Martin Kaymer it was nearly as good as his at Pinehurst, but not quite," said McDowell, whose winning total 12 months ago was nine under. "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?"

* Stephanie Meadow made the cut in her first appearance on the European Tour.

The 22-year-old is only level par after a one under second round score left her tied in 22nd position at the ISPA Handa European Masters.

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