|-11 R Paratore (Ita); -10 D Whitnell (Eng), J Harding (SA); -9 D Law (Sco), R Hojgaard (Den), A Chesters (Eng), C Hill (Sco)|
|Selected: -8 O Fisher (Eng); -7 R Rock (Eng), B Stow (Eng); -6 E Pepperell (Eng); -5 A Sullivan (Eng)|
Lee Westwood has scraped into the final two rounds of the British Masters on the cut mark of one under par, 10 shots behind Italian leader Renato Paratore.
England’s Westwood, who is hosting the European Tour event at Close House near Newcastle, had a double bogey at the first but carded a level-par 71.
Paratore is yet to drop a shot after following his opening 65 with a 66.
South Africa’s Justin Harding shot an eight-under 63 to move to 10 under alongside England’s Dale Whitnell (64).
Whitnell, who played on the 2009 Walker Cup team with Tommy Fleetwood, struggled to establish himself in the professional ranks and took on a job as a courier driver two and a half years ago “to finance playing on the mini tours”.
The world number 456 claimed his European Tour card from qualifying school but did not win a penny from five events in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic forced the sport to shutdown.
The 31-year-old from Colchester, who has had a bogey-free first two rounds, had an eagle and five birdies in an excellent second round, but said he is trying “not to think about” the first prize of £187,000 and two-year European Tour exemption.
“I’m just trying to go about my business like I normally would and if it’s good enough, it’s good enough,” he added.
Overnight leader David Law had a solid two-under 69 to move to nine under, where he was joined by fellow Scot Calum Hill (66), England’s Ashley Chesters (66) and Rasmus Hojgaard of Denmark (67).
Since the event returned to the European Tour in 2015, a leading British golfer has chosen the course and hosted the event.
Westwood, who is a member at Close House, also hosted the event at the north-east England course in 2017.
The world number 34 is easily the highest-ranked player in the field but faced missing the cut after dropping three shots in his opening three holes to move to two over par.
Four birdies in his next seven holes lifted him to two under before another bogey on the 13th saw him beat the cut on the mark.
England’s Eddie Pepperell, one of only two other players in the field inside the top 100 in the world, is at six under after a two-under 69.
‘Beef’ explains withdrawal
This is the first of six European Tour events being held in the UK this summer and players, officials and media are undergoing rigorous coronavirus testing procedures.
The European Tour’s approach has been widely applauded, but it did lead to England’s Andrew Johnston pulling out after nine holes of Thursday’s opening round.
Nicknamed ‘Beef’, Johnston became a fans’ favourite after winning the 2016 Spanish Open but talked last year about the mental health struggles that followed his rapid rise to fame.
After withdrawing at Close House, he said: “Being here and being confined to the hotel and course and not being able to bring my family is ultimately not what I want at this moment.
“I’m struggling to get my head around it all. One minute I’m coming out of lockdown, going out for dinner, and then the next I’m back in lockdown in a hotel room.”