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Lawrence masters windy conditions to stretch lead

Turfs up: David Lawrence chips the ball onto the 10th green during the second round of the Gosling’s International Invitational at Belmont Hills Golf Course yesterday. Lawrence, from Moline, Illinois, extended his lead heading into the final round today(Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

David Lawrence extended his overall lead in the Gosling’s International Invitational to three strokes going into the final round after shooting a three-under-par 67 in blustery conditions at Belmont Hills yesterday.

Lawrence, who led by one stroke over fellow Americans Mathias Gronberg and P.H. Horgan from the opening round at Port Royal on Tuesday, coped best with the windy conditions to keep himself at the front of the pack.

The trio were the final group to finish, coming up to the 18th hole in near darkness as Lawrence put his second shot to within six feet of the pin.

Lawrence has a second-round total of 135, while Horgan, who shot another 69, is second on 138, while Henry Smart, from London, England, is third after also shooting a 67.

“It’s nice to keep the lead; it was really tough out there, especially in the last four or five holes as the wind picked up,” said Lawrence, from Moline, Illinois.

“The greens were at a point where the balls were rolling back to our feet, so it was as much a mental test as a physical test.”

The second round at Port Royal on Wednesday had to scrapped because of the blustery conditions and although the winds were not as strong yesterday, they still posed enough of a challenge for the field.

“I’m expecting wind again; it makes it a little tougher, but I enjoy the challenge,” Lawrence added.

“This course is tricky as it is and gets a lot more tricky with the wind. I had bogeys on 7 and 8 and a double bogey on 16. Late in the day that 16th green got tricky, but for the most part I kept the ball in good spots.

“I’m playing well and have a good game plan. I played well around this golf course last year, which definitely helps the confidence. I’ll trust my game and go out there and have fun [today].”

Smart found the conditions to his liking and is hoping for more of the same today.

“I was really not feeing great on the first tee this morning, with the wind and tiredness, but I managed to get a really good up and down on the first and hole a good putt on the second,” he said.

“I managed to get a good score out there, even though it was playing unbelievably tough. I did really well to shoot that score today, but without the wind this course is there for the taking.”

Smart was speaking as he waited for the final trio to reach the clubhouse, but was hoping to have gained a stroke or two.

“I assume I won’t be too far off the lead going into tomorrow [today]. The only reason we come out here — three of my team-mates from college, the University of Virginia, and a kid I coached in college — is to have fun. It’s even cooler this year because my mom and dad came out. I only had one bogey, which is really good in that weather, it was on the fourth hole which is everyone’s worst nightmare.”

Smart played just one hole on Wednesday before the round was scrapped, but he is hoping for similar conditions for the final round today. “I want it to blow, if it blows I don’t think anyone can come from the pack and shoot a seven under,” he said.

Herbie Aikens, from Rockland, Maryland, is the lead amateur after his round of 71 which leaves him tied for sixth.

“It was really hard, the course was really tough with these kinds of winds,” Aitkens said.

“But I got a good round going, got it to three under, which was great, and then missed a green and then made double [bogey] and had a couple of bad spots.”

Damian Palanyandi, a Bermudian amateur, dropped into a four-way tie for eleventh after his round of 74.

“It was really tough out there, just a matter of keeping the ball in play and going from there,” said Palanyandi, who led the amateurs after the first round.

“I made a couple of mistakes, but I’ll take it as it comes and move on. There is always room for improvement, I bogeyed the last hole and made a really bad double on 14.”

Scores, Page 38