Europeans in dangerous form
Ryder cup preparation hots up as Hansen and Karlsson impress at Mercedes Championship.
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2008 09:19 GMT

Soren Hansen's caddie lines up the shot [GALLO/GETTY]
Ryder Cup pair Robert Karlsson and Soren Hansen hit timely form in the Mercedes Benz Championship, a week before Europe face the United States at Valhalla.

Karlsson took the halfway lead on a day of heavy rain while Hansen, defending the title, reeled off 10 birdies in a spectacular display, just two off the European Tour record for birdies in a round.

Karlsson, a stroke off the lead overnight, moved one shot ahead of Jean-Francois Lucquin with a three-under par 69 for the day and an eight-under 136 for the two rounds.

On form

Lucquin's 71, after his European Masters victory last week, kept him a shot better than Peter Hanson (69).

Joint overnight leader Richard Finch (73) is a stroke further back.

Karlsson, who has recorded two second places, three thirds, a fourth place in the US Open and eighth in the US Masters, finally looks poised to win his eighth European Tour title.

His chance has come after taking a three-week break and the Swede is delighted to have hit form straight away.

"Always when you have a little bit of a break you don't really know when you come back how your game will be.

But there is sharpness in my short-game and my putting," Karlsson said.

Feeling good

"There will be more and more pressure but I've got a good feeling for this week - and for next week."

Hansen, who will make his Ryder Cup debut next week, is tied for fifth place on four-under with Germany's Marcel Siem.

The Dane began by picking up six birdies in the first seven holes before the only real low point of his round when he triple-bogeyed the short 11th by four-putting.

Hansen was unfazed by the aberration and again hit the birdie trail, picking up four more in the next five holes.

Key pick

Even with two bogeys on the card too, Hansen showed he is in the sort of form that could earn him starts in next Friday and Saturday's foursomes and fourballs.

"I drove the ball so well I was hitting just seven-irons into the green nearly all the time, even though the course was playing long in the bad weather," Hansen said.

"I really came out of the box and my game just clicked.

"I guess I would have lost the 11th in matchplay but I showed how I can come straight back."

Asked if his performance might tempt Europe captain Nick Faldo to look at him for the pairs, Hansen said: "It will all depend how practice goes for the first three days for all of us.

"But I can play with anybody. The way I played today I could play on my own."

Rookie opportunity

Germany's Martin Kaymer, eight shots off the lead, has been invited by Faldo to travel to Valhalla to gain experience of the event.

The 23-year-old from Dusseldorf finished 11th on the Ryder Cup table, one place from qualifying, and would step in if any of the 10 qualifiers was unfit to play.

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