sport

Luiten makes his mark in Durban

A spectacular albatross helped Joost Luiten claim a share of the lead at the halfway stage of the Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club.

Luiten holed his second shot to the 560-yard 10th from 248 yards, his four-iron approach pitching just short of the green and running 20 yards up the green and into the hole.

The 28-year-old, who celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, eventually carded a second round of 67 to finish seven under par, a total then matched by England's Tommy Fleetwood and defending champion Louis Oosthuizen.

"It's my first albatross," said Luiten, who is just outside the automatic Ryder Cup qualifying places after winning the KLM Open in his home country last year. "I hit a good drive down the middle of the fairway, 227 metres left, hit a four iron and basically went straight at it.

"It pitched exactly where I wanted, just front of the green and released up the slope and straight at the pin and went in. It was a good feeling.

"I didn't really do a lot over the winter. I had three weeks off and I didn't really practice. You never know how you are going to play after that but luckily the game is still all right. The funny thing is yesterday it felt terrible but I was making some good swings today, so that gives you some trust hopefully for the coming days."

Luiten was a key part of the Continental Europe side which won the Seve Trophy for the first time in 13 years last October - winning four points out of five - and now has his sights set on more team golf this September.

"I want to win again and if you do there's a Ryder Cup coming up," Luiten added. "That's the main goal."

Coincidentally, the only match Luiten lost in the Seve Trophy was against Fleetwood in the final-day singles, with the 22-year-old Englishman also in Ryder Cup contention after his victory in the Johnnie Walker Championship on the Centenary Course which will stage the biennial contest.

"It's not my motivation at the minute, although it would be a dream come true one day," said Fleetwood, who carded six birdies and one bogey in his 67. "It's the best sporting event in the world but there are a lot of guys ahead of me at the moment.

"The difference between winning at Gleneagles last year and coming fifth that week was a single putt in four rounds. I could have lost in the play-off (with Ricardo Gonzalez and Stephen Gallacher), finished 50th in the order of merit and not played in the WGC event in Shanghai or this week and the difference in mindset would be huge.

"I played in all four Final Series events and played with Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy, and just being surrounded by the big players is a massive learning experience that you can't buy."

Fleetwood played 32 events on the European Tour last season and admitted he found it hard to take a few weeks off over the winter, adding: "At least at Christmas you have to see everyone but that stresses me out anyway! By the 20th December you end up wishing Christmas would arrive early.

"It's hard to rest but you have to now and again and today shows that you can have weeks off and come back out and play well."

Former Open champion Oosthuizen carded four birdies and one bogey in his 69, with France's Victor Dubuisson a shot off the lead on six under following a more erratic 69 which featured an eagle, five birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.

Italy's Matteo Manassero, the youngest ever winner of the BMW PGA Championship last May, is another stroke back after a 67, with overnight leader Raphael Jacquelin and Darren Clarke on four under.

Clarke, who won the Open at Royal St George's in 2011 but has failed to record a single top-10 finish on the European Tour in the last two years, birdied three of his first four holes but eventually had to settle for a 71.