Luck of the draw favours Jacquelin’s group at Kingsbarns

Padraig Harrington reacts to a missed putt.
Padraig Harrington reacts to a missed putt.
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France’s Raphael Jacquelin claimed the halfway lead in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship yesterday as the luck of the draw had a major impact.

Jacquelin carded a second round of 70 in the pro-am event to finish nine under par, one shot ahead of Irish duo Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington, England’s Oliver Wilson and France’s Alexander Levy.

Eleven of the top 12 scores came from players who were at Kingsbarns yesterday and Carnoustie on Thursday, when calm conditions meant traditionally the hardest of the three venues played relatively easy.

Wind and rain made scoring more difficult yesterday but Jacquelin birdied his final two holes to move into pole position for a fifth European Tour title.

“I’m pretty happy, especially the way I finished,” said Jacquelin, whose last win came in a record-equalling nine-hole play-off in the Spanish Open last year. “I birdied 17 and 18 so it was good before having dinner and going to rest.

“I’ve been working hard every year since the last 20 years to be at this position. I feel good. It’s a long weekend. It’s a lot of golf to play, so you know, the game of golf, it’s not that easy. You just have to stick to the same plan and see what happens.”

Lowry, who finished joint third in this event 12 months ago, was the only player in the top 12 to play at St Andrews yesterday, meaning he will face Carnoustie today before the final round is again played over the Old Course.

Harrington won the first of his back-to-back Open titles at Carnoustie in 2007 but has not won a tournament on a major worldwide tour since the 2008 US PGA. The 43-year-old was a vice-captain at last week’s Ryder Cup and although he admits he has a lot more to learn before bidding to captain the side, he has set himself an ambitious target.

“I think the big one for me, I’ve got to get inside the top 15 in the world to make the Olympics in 2016,” said Harrington, who is currently ranked 324th. “I’ve got 22 months to go. I’m starting at absolute zero probably at the moment.”

Scottish duo Richie Ramsay and Chris Doak are two shots off the pace on seven under, with compatriot Stephen Gallacher another shot back and Gallacher’s Ryder Cup team-mate Rory McIlroy five off the lead on four under.

McIlroy, who is keen to make the cut in the team event so his amateur partner, his father Gerry, can play at St Andrews on his 55th birthday this Sunday, started the day nine shots off the pace and dropped back to two over par with a bogey on the 14th.

However, the world No 1 hit a superb fairway-wood approach to the par five 16th and rolled in the eagle putt from 15 feet on his way to a round of 67 at Kingsbarns. Sheffield’s Danny Willett shot a round of 70.

At Carnoustie, Harrogate’s John Parry added a 73 to his opening 68, but it was better news for Malton’s Simon Dyson who followed his 73 with a 71.

Hull’s Richard Finch was at St Andrews where he shot a 70, to add to his opening round of 72.