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Ugly finish halts Stadler charge

ESPN staff
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Kevin Stadler had a very happy fourth of July © Getty Images
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American Kevin Stadler celebrated Independence Day by moving three clear on a tricky day for scoring at the Open de France.

But it could have been so much better for overnight leader Stadler, who was left to rue an ugly finish to his second round at Le Golf National.

Starting at the 10th, Stadler, who carded a flawless opening round of 64 at the 2018 Ryder Cup venue, did not drop a shot until his 32nd hole when he bogeyed the fifth.

But after recovering to card back-to-back birdies at the next two holes, the world No.62 shanked his approach to the par-five ninth - his final hole - on his way to a double-bogey seven.

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"I just tried to get a little too much out of it," said Stadler, who had to settle for a round of 68. "I didn't have the best of lies and had to hit the shot perfectly. I got a little too steep on it and it came off the hosel and into the deep stuff.

"It was not exactly how I planned to finish but overall it was another good day so it's all good. I putted brilliantly the first couple of days. I got a little sloppy on my final nine today but other than that struck the ball very well as well, had a lot of chances and rolled in a lot of nice putts."

Stadler broke his PGA Tour duck at the Phoenix Open in February to earn a spot at the Masters, where he played with father and 1982 Augusta champion Craig. A joint-eighth finish at the opening major of the season has been Stadler's only top-10 since his triumph at Scottsdale.

"It's been a little rotten the last couple of months," he added. "But I'm starting to show some signs of form again and I've hit plenty of good shots the last couple of days. Hopefully I can do more of the same at the weekend, the putter keeps co-operating and I am looking forward to the last couple of days."

Despite the ugly finish, Stadler's round was only bettered by a handful of players - including second-placed Frenchman Victor Riu, whose 67 moves the local favourite, who resides in nearby Saint-Nom-la-Breteche, to second place at seven-under.

Sleep-deprived Marcel Siem started the day one back of Stadler, but an up-and-down round that included four birdies and five bogeys see the German five off the pace heading into the weekend.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell headlines a Briton-heavy group tied for fourth at three-under par.

McDowell, paired with history-making US Open champion Martin Kaymer, carded a two-under 69 and was keen to acknowledge Stadler's performance.

"I said to Martin it was nearly as good as his at Pinehurst, but not quite," McDowell revealed. "It was a great display of golf.

"It's Kevin's type of golf course and if he keeps playing like that he's going to be tough to catch, but I feel like three-under is not a bad return for the last two days and if I can go low tomorrow and get myself back into it, who knows?"

McDowell is joined at by fellow Northern Irishman Michael Hoey, who carded a round-of-the-day 66, as well as Scotland's Stephen Gallacher and Scott Jamieson, Wales' Jamie Donaldson and Englishman Mark Foster.

Kaymer, who won his second major title by eight shots last month, was a shot back at two-under, along with England's Oli and Ross Fisher as just 23 players head into the weekend under par.

Home favourite and 2011 champion Thomas Levet joined Padraig Harrington and Thomas Bjorn as the big names headed home early.

Open de France leaderboard

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