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Defending champion Pieters shares lead in Prague

Pieters one eye on the Ryder Cup (Photo: Getty Images)

Thomas Pieters stayed on track for a successful title defence at the D+D REAL Czech Masters after the Belgian had carded a five under par second round 67 at Albatross Golf Resort to share the halfway lead with Denmark’s Jeff Winther.

The 24 year old from Antwerp enjoyed a flawless round at the sun-kissed Prague venue - a member of the prestigious European Tour Destinations network - to move to a ten under par total and maintain his hopes of an eleventh-hour charge into contention for automatic Ryder Cup qualification.

Winther, meanwhile, looked set to take the outright lead when he followed up a four under par front nine with an eagle at the first, having teed off at the tenth, before another birdie at the third took him a shot clear. A bogey five at the eighth and a six under 66, however, left him tied at the top.

Ryder Cup hopeful Matt Fitzpatrick was one of those in a share of third, four shots back, after the Englishman carded a second successive 69. He was joined on six under by countrymen Steven Brown (69), Tommy Fleetwood (68) and David Howell (68) as well as Swedes Robert Karlsson (70) and Peter Hanson (71).

“It’s always nice to go bogey-free and make some nice putts,” said Pieters who finished a very impressive 4th at last week’s Olympics. “I’m hitting irons very well, my ball-striking has been very good the last few days. It feels like controlled and stress-free golf.

“I thought there would be lower scores after the first two days but I have to do my own thing and if that means pulling away from the field then fine, but I’m not really doing that at the moment – there are a lot of good players behind me and it’ll be a fun weekend.

 “It’s (the Ryder Cup) not really in my mind. All I can do is do my best this week and we’ll see where it takes me, and next week’s the same thing so it’s not on my mind at all.”

Matt Fitzpatrick is another for whom this week means a lot in terms of Ryder Cup hopes. “It's a great start to the week for me," he said. "Obviously I think everyone in the world knows it's a big week this week, as is next week, so to start like that is very pleasing. It was really enjoyable and pretty laid back, we both get on with Thomas (Bjørn) really well. Sully (Andy Sullivan), just the person he is, he's always smiling so it's a good two days.

“It is difficult (not to think of The Ryder Cup), especially when Thomas is talking about it on the way round, but it's just something you've got to put to the back of your mind and just get on with the job.

“At the minute, it's in my hands. If I have a good week here and a good week next week then I'll close it up. It would be nice to do it here if I'm honest. There are still two weeks to go. A couple of boys are playing over in the States and a couple playing here so I'll just focus on my own game and see where we end up.”

Of the Australians in the field Daniel Gaunt has done well to be in a share of 14th position at the halfway mark.

Brett Rumford is next best finding some form after a tough run in recent months. The West Australian is in a share of 25th position while Terry Pilkadaris and Jason Scrivener also made the cut but are further back.

Leading round two scores

134 T Pieters  (Bel) 67 67, J Winther (Den) 68 66, 

138 D Howell (Eng) 70 68, R Karlsson (Swe) 68 70, S Brown (Eng) 69 69, P Hanson (Swe) 67 71, M Fitzpatrick  (Eng) 69 69, T Fleetwood  (Eng) 70 68, 

139 C Lee (Sco) 68 71, D Im (USA) 72 67, R McEvoy  (Eng) 72 67, R Evans  (Eng) 66 73, M Warren (Sco) 71 68, 

140 L Canter (Eng) 70 70, F Fritsch  (Ger) 69 71, O Stark (Swe) 71 69, D Gaunt (Aus) 69 71, G Storm  (Eng) 68 72, 

141 N Fasth (Swe) 73 68, O Fisher  (Eng) 69 72, J Daly (USA) 69 72, S Jamieson  (Sco) 68 73, D Lipsky (USA) 71 70, M Ford (Eng) 70 71, 

142 R Rock (Eng) 72 70, B Dredge (Wal) 68 74, B Rumford (Aus) 70 72, P Peterson (USA) 72 70, M Foster (Eng) 72 70, J Senior (Eng) 72 70, B Evans  (Eng) 70 72, L Westwood (Eng) 70 72, 

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