Ex-courier in fast finish at Masters

Italy's Renato Paratore leads the British Masters by one stroke after the second round

Former courier Dale Whitnell made an eagle and five birdies for a seven-under 64 in the second round of the British Masters on Thursday.

Whitnell is 10-under par at the halfway stage, a shot behind Italian leader Renato Paratore (66), on the European Tour's full return to action at Close House Golf Course.

The 31-year-old Whitnell played on the 2009 Walker Cup team alongside Tommy Fleetwood, but struggled to establish himself in the professional ranks and was forced to take on a courier job for 10 months to make ends meet.

A victory on the Portugal Pro Golf Tour earned him five Challenge Tour invites in 2019 and he won the KPMG Trophy last September before claiming his European Tour card from the qualifying school.

"I've been working hard on my game and this course suits me because it's a little bit fiddly in places," said Whitnell, who had not earned anything from five events in 2020 before the circuit shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The peaks and troughs of the golf profession are very interesting. You've just got to try to deal with it the best you can," Whitnell said. "I love the game, I wouldn't be here if I didn't and my amateur career speaks for itself."

South Africa's Justin Harding fired a brilliant 63, the lowest round of the week so far, to sit alongside Whitnell on 10-under.

Overnight leader David Law (69), Calum Hill (66), Ashley Chesters (66) and Rasmus Hojgaard (67) are a stroke further back.

Australia's Jason Scrivener and Jake McLeod are eight shots behind Paratore.

Tournament host and club member Lee Westwood was in danger of making an early exit after a double bogey on the first, but the 47-year-old fought back to shoot 71 and make the cut on the mark of one- under.

Miguel Angel Jimenez (71), making his 706th appearance on the European Tour to tie the record of Sam Torrance, is tied for 35th on three-under.