José Coceres of Argentina tamed a 30-knot ‘Shamal’ – or desert sandstorm - to move into a four stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Dubai Desert Classic at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.
The 36 year old from Buenos Aires fired a second round 69 in the teeth of the gale to open up a healthy advantage over England’s Jamie Spence on an 11 under par total of 133.
Coceres, winner of the Catalan Open six years ago, kept his concentration superbly on a day when the player with whom he shared the first round lead, Lee Westwood, slipped back with a 75 for a share of seventh place.
Spence produced a magnificent best-of-the-day 67, five under par, to take second place on his own on 137 with four players one behind him on 138.
It was certainly an outstanding effort by Coceres who struggled to recall when he last led a European Tour event. He said: “It was a very long time ago. I think it was some years ago in Holland when Colin Montgomerie won the tournament.
“I concentrated well today, shot by shot, because it is difficult to concentrate all the time in this wind. I played a perfect round yesterday but today I played okay and got lucky when I needed to hole a couple of putts. It was difficult to putt with the wind.”
In that respect, Coceres received unanimous support from Westwood, who had two double bogeys on his card. He insisted: “The ball was wobbling on the greens. It wasn’t moving but I imagine that’s as close as it can get to being unplayable really. I can’t recall the last time I played in a wind of that strength – possibly the Open at Royal Birkdale in 1998.”
However the ‘Shamal’ did not upset Spence, another 36 year old who, like Coceres, has won only once in the 1992 Canon European Masters. Spence confessed to enjoying playing in windy conditions and said: “I have always played in the wind. You don’t fight it – just keep it smooth. I like hitting little shots. I enjoy it. I am a ‘hands’ player so it suits me.”
Greg Owen of England, Welshman Paul Affleck, Jose Rivero and Dubai Creek’s touring professional, Thomas Bjorn, all finished on six under par on a tough day when only three players in the entire field shot sub-70 rounds.
European No.1 Colin Montgomerie made the cut – which fell on 147 – by one stroke after adding a 75 on to his opening 71, while American Ryder Cup players Justin Leonard and Mark O’Meara both made it through to the weekend on 145.