Friday, October 14, 2011


European Tour Deputy Chief Press Officer
You might not expect a Scot to be able to use extensive local knowledge around a golf course on the northern outskirts of Rome, but Raymond Russell employed exactly that to charge to top of the Roma Golf Open leaderboard at the halfway stage.
The Scot, pictured, back on the Challenge Tour after spending the majority of the year crippled by the effects of a mysterious and debilitating viral condition, posted a second round of six under par 65 to establish a two-shot lead over his countryman Callum Macaulay, the English pair of Lloyd Kennedy and Sam Little as well as Italian Gregory Molteni at the Olgiata Golf Club.
Russell’s extensive knowledge of this week’s host venue came, in the main, from his caddie for the first two rounds in Rome, the former club professional at Olgiata, Pete McEvoy, who has been a friend of Russell’s for many years and who is now the head professional at his home club, Old Fold Manor in Hertfordshire, England.
“I have had my friend Pete from back home on the bag for the first two rounds here. I know him from my club back home, Old Fold Manor, and he used to be the pro here,” Russell explained.
“My 65 was a good score today because conditions were tricky out there and the flags were tucked away. It was one of those days when you are playing for the most part to the middle of the greens and trying to take advantage of the par fives. It was a day to play smart and I managed to do that.”
Russell is just thankful to be competing after wondering at points during the year if he would ever get the chance to play at the top level, given the crushing effects of his viral condition.
The 39 year old from Edinburgh suffered a prodigious loss of weight during his illness and was told by doctors during the height of his troubles that his body was operating on 15 per cent of its usual capacity.
“It feels great to be at the top of the leaderboard but to be honest it is just good to be back competing,” continued the Scot. “It’s been a tough year so to be back out here competing is very satisfying.
“They still have no idea what the virus was. All they can tell me is that it was a virus with similar symptoms to glandular fever. I was tested for almost everything – Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, HIV, Dengue Fever, River Ross Fever – everything you can think of – and they still don’t know what it was exactly.”
While Russell is simply appreciating being able to play the game he loves to the kind of level that made him a European Tour champion at the 1996 Cannes Open, Macaulay is hoping to keep his 2012 European Tour dream alive by finishing in the top three in the Eternal City to progress to the season-ending Grand Final in three weeks.
The Roma Golf Open is the penultimate event of the year and Macaulay’s last chance to break into the top 45 in the Rankings and claim a Grand Final spot. Currently 61st, the 27 year old needs to finish in the top three in Rome to earn the requisite €10,000 that would allow him to continue his quest to finish in the elite top 20 European Tour card-winning spots at the conclusion of the season finale.
“I was a bit too aggressive to start today and bogeyed the first but that was the only mistake I made all day,” said Macaulay. “I kind of hung in there for the rest of the front nine, made a good birdie at the ninth and that set me up for a good back nine with three more.
“I’ll just keep plodding along and see where it takes me on Sunday. I’m here to win the tournament – as I am every week I tee it up – and that mindset won’t change.”
Jamie McLeary is another Scot in contention in Rome after a three under 68 left him on four under for the tournament, while Jack Doherty (-1), Craig Lee (level par), Gavin Dear (+1) and Chris Doak (+1) all survived the halfway cut. Elliott Saltman, meanwhile, endured a nightmare second round 80 to be the only Scot in the field to require an early flight home.

Par 142 (2x71)
132 Raymond Russell (Scotland) 67 65.
134 Sam Little (England) 66 68, Callum Macaulay (Scotland) 66 68, Lloyd Kennedy (England) 68 66, Gregory Molteni (Italy) 69 65.

138 Jamie McLeary 70 68 (T12).
141 Jack Doherty 71 70 (T27).
142 Craig Lee 71 71 (T38)
143 Chris Doak 70 73, Gavin Dear 72 71 (T44)

MISSED THE CUT (144 or better qualified)
157 Elliot Saltman 76 81.



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