After Saturday's round, Mika's 72 was clearly the best round and he enjoyed a 3 shot lead from Keijo Jaakkola and a group of 3 players (Petri Lehto, Jan Aalto and Andy Fowlie) one shot further back after rounds of 76. The last group for the second round would be Mika, Keijo and Andy with Petri and Jan playing ahead of them along with Timo Huuhtanen who had scored 77 (as had Mika Wikström).
The final group did not have the best of starts, playing the par 4 first hole in a total of 18 (6 over par!) after Mika found trouble from the tee twice on the way to an 8 while the others made sloppy bogeys. The second and the third were not much better as each player added another bogey to their cards before settling down to some better golf as the rain fell steadily. After the leading group opened the door with a poor start there was a constantly changing situation at the top of the leaderboard with six different players (Mika Piltz, Keijo Jaakkola, And Fowlie, Mika Wikström, Petri Lehto and Jan Aalto) each holding the advantage at one point before it came down to Mika P., Keijo and Andy on the back nine.
By the 15th tee Mika held a 2 shot advantage (following birdies on 9 and 14) but a poor drive and a 3 putt green (the puddles forming on the putting surfaces did not help!) proved to be very costly as a second 8 messed up his card. Andy's short birdie putt on 15 had decided not to go in, like many other chances during the round, which left Keijo and Andy one ahead of Mika with 3 to play. On the 16th both Keijo and Andy had birdie putts from around 10-12m, Andy's putt golf held up by some surface water and stopped 2m short before Keijo rolled his effort in across the green (after a 1 second pause on the edge of the hole). Andy's putt went past the same edge of the hole and there was a 2 shot swing.
On the 17th Keijo and Andy both hit good approaches, Andy's birdie effort caught a lot of the hole but lipped out while Keijo's effort slid past the edge. The 18th was a bit of a mess with all three players short and left with their approaches. Keijo thinned his chip over the back of the green before chipping back to 3m which Andy's bunker shot was decent and left about the same distance for par. Keijo's birdie putt, after taking relief from standing water on the green, went nicely into the hole to confirm his win. Andy's putt followed the pattern of the day and did a 180 degree circle of the hole before coming back towards him... leaving him in second place 2 shots behind Keijo.
The Mid Tour Order of Merit also looks quite good for Kytäjä, Andy is in 4th position and Niko in 7th after two events.
Last week, after a hugely disappointing European Mid Amateur Championship in Germany, I wrote on this site that I would be back... but to be honest I was not sure that was true and I had the feeling that if it was true it might take some time. My ball-striking has been worse this year than I can ever remember and I really did not have the feeling for the game at all... so I am really, really happy with the results from Espoo this week.
Following the German disappointment I changed my grips back to my normal golf pride tour velvet (having used the mid-sized version all year) and immediately started to see my striking come back, the first good signs were in a practice round on Thursday and then over the weekend it got better as I went along.
On Saturday I had a messy mixture of things in my round, I missed the green twice from greenside bunkers and drove 3 times to water hazards... but I also hit some excellent shots and made a few putts to keep me in the tournament. Sunday's round was a real challenge in the constant heavy rain, especially after a poor start where I missed from less than 2m on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, but after the 7th hole I really started to feel like my swing was falling into place and I gave myself every chance to win the tournament. If I had putted averagely instead of terribly then maybe I could have been the one making a winners speech instead of Keijo (if, if, if... maybe some others have their own if's also).
I enjoyed myself on the course for the first time in a while and I think I finally can put away the "maybe I cant do it any more" feeling that I have been having all year. My back is not in great condition and I feel like I am about 80 years old every day when i wake up... but it seems that I can still play a bit and hopefully I can build further from here. Today was a lot of fun.