Hennie Otto goes low to stiffen Stephen Gallacher’s Italian job

Scottish golfer now five shots off second-place finish he needs to make Ryder Cup side

As a South African he cannot compete in the Ryder Cup, but Hennie Otto may still have played a significant part in deciding Europe’s team in the Italian Open.

Otto carded a stunning 10-under-par 62 at Circolo Golf Torino on Friday, just five minutes before Stephen Gallacher began his second round in the final qualifying event for September's contest at Gleneagles.

Gallacher needs to finish in the top two on Sunday to replace Graeme McDowell in the last automatic qualifying place and admitted his thoughts on seeing the leaderboard, with Otto 15 under and Bernd Wiesberger 12 under, were not fit for public consumption.

However, the 39-year-old Scot kept his hopes of securing a Ryder Cup debut on home soil alive – he lives just 35 miles from the venue – thanks to a superb 65 which featured an eagle, a double bogey and seven birdies, six of them coming in a back nine of 30.

“When you tee it up 15 and 12 behind you know you’re going to have to be more aggressive and make some birdies so I was delighted to shoot 65 with a double bogey in the end,” said Gallacher, whose seven under total leaves him eight off the lead and five behind second in joint ninth.

“It would be nice to follow it up with more of the same. I knew I had to go low at some stage and I’m just delighted to get on a run on the back nine.

“I don’t think I could say on air what I was thinking when I saw the leaderboard at lunch. It was a strange feeling. I was looking at the guy who was second to be honest to try and catch him up a bit and a couple more 65s at the weekend and we will see what happens.

“There are two more rounds and a lot can happen in golf. Just to be in with a shout on Sunday is all you can ask.”

Gallacher started in ideal fashion, hitting a seven iron to six feet for an eagle on the first and also making a birdie on the fifth, but was briefly outside the projected cut when he found the trees on the sixth and three-putted for a double-bogey six.

However, a superb approach to the 10th kickstarted a run of six birdies in eight holes and ensured European captain Paul McGinley, who missed the cut, will have plenty to occupy his time this weekend.

McGinley admitted after the opening round that Turin native Francesco Molinari was "very much on my mind" in terms of Tuesday's announcement of his three wild cards, but a second round of 72 left the Italian nine shots behind Otto.

“It’s a step back but there are two more days so let’s see what happens at the weekend,” said Molinari, who feels he needs to win his national open for a second time to earn a third consecutive cup appearance. “It’s a course that’s hard to go under par day after day, if you miss a few fairways you can get into trouble.”

The bad news for the chasing pack is that Otto also won this event in 2008 in Milan with a total of 25 under par and feels right at home in Italy.

“It’s always special to shoot a 62 but a 59 never even crossed my mind,” said Otto, who was 10 under par after 15 holes and needed to birdie the last three to record the first sub-60 round on the European Tour.

“I didn’t really think about my score until my caddie said if I made par on 17 we would have been on course for a 10-under-par round.”

That bogey on 17 is the only shot Otto has dropped in two days, but he responded superbly with a birdie from 30 feet on the last in just his second tournament since June after undergoing two back operations.

“I really played well, hit some good shots and the greens were running well so you were able to make some putts,” the 38-year-old added. “Something about courses in Italy suits my eye and it would be great to win the tournament. Hopefully I can keep it up and keep going over the weekend.

“I’m supposed to still be at home after the surgery but I felt good and it was a surprise to make the cut last week.”

Wiesberger is one player who thinks even a win will not be enough to figure in the Ryder Cup debate, but the Austrian has not dropped a shot in two days after consecutive rounds of 66 left him three shots ahead of England's Ross Fisher.

Gareth Maybin failed to build on his fine opening 67 as he carded a one-over 73 to slip back to four under.

Darren Clarke (70) and Damien McGrane (71) both made the weekend after finishing one shot inside the cut on two under, but Simon Thornton, Peter Lawrie, Pádraig Harrington and David Higgins join McGinley in missing out.