Colsaerts jumps into tie for French Open lead

Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (France) (AFP) –


Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts took a share of the lead at the halfway stage of the French Open on Friday with South African George Coetzee, despite finding the water on the final hole of his second round.

The 2012 Ryder Cup winner, who has since slipped to 424th in the world rankings, fired a five-under-par 66 and moved to nine-under for the tournament.

Colsaerts and Coetzee are one shot clear of American Kurt Kitayama.

A run of five birdies in six holes from the start of the back nine helped Colsaerts briefly move into a two-stroke advantage, and although he struck his tee shot at the perilous 18th into the water, he recovered with an excellent approach to limit the damage to a bogey.

"I made a few long putts that kind of gave me momentum into the back nine, which was nice, and then (it was) free-flowing the rest," said the 36-year-old, who is bidding for a first European Tour title since 2012, when he was also a wildcard pick for the Ryder Cup dubbed the 'Miracle at Medinah'.

Coetzee was tied for the lead overnight with New Zealander Ryan Fox, and the world number 289 birdied his final hole, after starting on the back nine, to secure a place in the final pairing with Colsaerts for Saturday.

Kitayama, out early in the day on last year's Ryder Cup course, defied the cold, breezy conditions by shooting a three-under 68 with five birdies.

The 26-year-old finished third at last week's Italian Open and is ending his debut season on the European Tour strongly after victories in Mauritius last December and at the Oman Open in March.

"When it's playing this tough, and you come out with a couple under, it feels really good," said the world number 91. "Coming into today, I was definitely -- 'Oh, it's going to be really tough', but it was a lot of fun."

Scotland's Richie Ramsay signed for a 69 to sit fourth on seven-under overall.

- Mixed fortunes for French hopes -

Benjamin Hebert, playing alongside Kitayama, kept home hopes of a first French winner since Thomas Levet in 2011 alive by following his opening-round 66 with a level-par 71 to stay at five-under and only four shots back.

He sits one stroke ahead of French number one Victor Perez going into the weekend.

"I'm very happy and very excited about it," said Hebert. "Hopefully it's going to be like -- not the Ryder Cup -- but some people will come to watch everybody."

There was agony for another Frenchman, though, as Clement Sordet contrived to take nine shots on the par-four 18th when he stood on the tee three strokes above the cut-line.

After hitting two balls into the water, Sordet compounded his initial mistakes by four-putting, missing twice from inside three feet.

American Hudson Swafford made three eagles in an incredible round of 65, including holing his approach shot on the par-four 13th.

He also rolled in four birdies and briefly threatened the course record, but four bogeys held him back and he finished the day three-under for the tournament.

Two-time major winner Martin Kaymer birdied the last for a 69 to reach five-under, while defending champion Alex Noren battled to his second straight 72 to make the cut on the number at two-over par.