A back nine of 30 which included two eagles propelled Ben Evans to the top of the leaderboard on the second day of the inaugural Azerbaijan Golf Challenge Open.
The Englishman opened with a three-putt bogey and was one over par after nine holes, but picked up six shots on his way home to sign for a round of 67 and enter the weekend on 11 under par, one shot ahead of Benjamin Hebert, who posted a stunning 62.
Evans’ remarkable run at The National Azerbaijan Golf Club began on the tenth hole, where he flushed his five wood to six feet and rolled in the putt for a morale-boosting eagle.
That was the catalyst for a birdie burst over the next two holes, and he leapt to the head of affairs after driving the 17th green and holing the resulting eagle putt from ten feet.
Evans said: “I actually played better today than I did yesterday. It took me a while to get going, but the eagle on the tenth was just the start I needed to my back nine.
“We got a bit lucky with the wind, because it dropped off at the start of the back nine, and there’s no chance of reaching the tenth in two if you’re hitting into the wind. Then it picked up towards the end of the round, when most of the holes play downwind.
“I’ve got the most out of my two rounds, because I didn’t actually feel that comfortable yesterday. My driving has been very good, but my irons weren’t quite on song. So to shoot 11 under over the two days is pretty good going.”
Hebert’s astonishing round was a full ten shots better than his opening effort – and there was a nine stroke difference in his score on the front nine alone.
Whereas on the opening day he went out in 38, this morning he covered the same stretch in a scarcely believable 29, courtesy of seven birdies.
It was the lowest round of Hebert’s career, and moved the Frenchman into contention to claim a fourth Challenge Tour title, having racked up a hat-trick of victories in rapid succession in 2011.
He said: “I’ve been playing well for a few weeks now, but I didn’t expect to shoot 62 today. With the rain we’ve had the course was playing a little easier today, but not ten shots easier! I just played very well – I didn’t hole many long putts, so it wasn’t like it was a fluke.
“It was almost the perfect round, and more importantly it has put me in a very good position on the leaderboard. I probably need to finish in the top five this week to get into the Rolex Trophy in a few weeks, so that was my objective at the start of the tournament and hopefully I can do even better.
“I know I can play well and win out here, but what I’m really trying to do is get more consistency in my game. Sometimes my putting has let me down this season, but I’ve putted really well on these greens so far this week, and hopefully that can continue.”
The Scandinavian duo of Alexander Björk and Jeff Winther currently share third place on nine under par after carding respective rounds of 67 and 70.