THE 17th hole at PGA Catalunya is proving expensive for Scotland's Richie Ramsay, who has bogeyed it on both of the first two days of the Spanish Open.
Ramsay had moved to within two shots of the leader, Belgium's Thomas Pieters, after a birdie at the par-five 15th, but once again found trouble at the second-last hole on another wind-swept day at the course near Girona in north-east Spain. Ramsay, though, managed to par the last for a level-par round of 72 and a respectable halfway aggregate of 141.
His fellow Scot, Paul Lawrie, peppered his card with three birdies, three bogeys, an eagle and a double-bogey to match Ramsay's round of 72 and take a share of eighth place with another veteran, Miguel Angel Jimenez, on 142, four shots behind the leader.
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Pieters, the world No.690, was two over par for the day after 10 holes, but birdied five of the next seven to come home in 31 for a second successive 69, despite playing in the windier afternoon conditions.
That gave the 6ft 5ins 22-year-old, who secured his European Tour card via the qualifying school on the same course in November, a six-under-par halfway total and one-shot lead over Holland's Joost Luiten and England's Eddie Pepperell.
Luiten had earlier shrugged off a warning for slow play to card a 69 and join Pepperell on five under par, a target which did not look like being beaten until Pieters' late charge. The group of Luiten, Jimenez and Francesco Molinari were put on the clock after falling out of position, with Luiten given a first "bad time" warning for taking too long on his second shot to the seventh. A second transgression would have meant a one-shot penalty, but the Ryder Cup hopeful went on to birdie the 542-yard par five and picked up another shot on the ninth, his final hole.
"I didn't know we were on the clock for two holes to start with and then she [an R&A rules official] came up and said you had a bad time," said Luiten. "Someone was talking, so I had to step out of the shot. It was only one bad time and I knew I could not do it again, but I made a nice birdie so it was okay.
"You have your routine and if you don't have to step out of the shot you are in time. I didn't really worry about it too much."
Pepperell had carded an opening 68 to claim a one-shot lead overnight and was five shots clear of the field when, after starting on the back nine, he birdied the 10th and 11th and eagled the 12th. However, he then ran up a double-bogey 6 on the 14th and bogeyed the 18th to be out in 35, with two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine meaning the 23-year-old from Oxford had to settle for a 71.
Sergio Garcia, the pre-tournament favourite, fought to one under par.