Australian Nick O’Hern maintained pole position at the halfway stage of the Caltex Singapore Masters after a steady one under par 71 took the left hander to nine under par and one stroke clear of American Jim Johnson.
But six time Major Champion Nick Faldo is among the players poised to mount a challenge over the weekend after climbing into a share of third place on seven under par 137 with a 69, three under par, at Laguna National Golf and Country Club.
O’Hern’s second round was nothing like his spectacular opening round of 64, which set a new course record for the Masters Course, but his 71 was still good enough to hold the chasing pack at bay.
Two birdies on the front nine, both on the par fives where he pitched to ten feet, took him out in 34 and three clear of the field, but he was unable to add to his tally and fell back to nine under par with a bogey on the 16th.
“I played pretty similar to yesterday but just didn’t hole the putts,” said the 30 year old. “It was pretty decent but I started to struggle over the last four or five holes and threw in a bogey.
“I didn’t hit the ball very well on the back nine so I have got to work on it and get it right. I’m just not hitting the ball where I want it. Not driving as well as I did the first day and you have to be in a good spot to attack these flags. I was on the defensive on the back nine unfortunately and it is hard to make birdies when you play like that.”
Johnson, winner of the Asian PGA Qualifying School last month in Malaysia, moved into second place after a five under par 67. Johnson is playing in only his third event in Asia having played various tours around the world including the Nike Tour, Southern African Tour and South American Tour over the years. In his first two starts he finished joint 11th in Myanmar and missing the cut in India last week.
“I didn’t hit a lot of big shots and just kept it in play and on the right side of the hole and made a few good putts,” he said. “ This is the kind of course you can make birdies on. It’s not unplayable by any means but if you make some mistakes and get into the wrong spots you can score some doubles pretty quickly as well. It is a good test.”
Faldo looks to be the main threat over the last two rounds as he chases his first individual title since winning the Nissan Open in 1997 and his second successive victory in Singapore having won the 1993 Johnnie Walker Classic on his last visit to the Lion City.
So far this year the 44 year old has finished in the top ten in both the tournaments he has played and is once again ready to challenge for the main honours.
Faldo was playing steadily with just two birdies and no dropped shots in his first 15 holes but two huge putts in the last three holes made the day. At the seventh, his 16th, Faldo rolled in a 30 foot putt and then secured a fourth birdie of the day on the last when he recovered from a hooked drive by holing a 40 foot putt for a three.
His only blemish came on the short eighth hole where he missed the green and was unable to save his par.
“I feel like I am getting into a bit of a groove,” Faldo said. “I am still working hard and haven’t got the confidence in the swing yet but it is coming. I am just trying to push myself to gain confidence from the good shots I hit.
“It’s good to be in there. If I really believe I can win one I’ve got to get in there and sort it out. It is just a big learning curve to be honest. The swing is a bit shakey but I have to fix it out there and get comfortable. That is what I am trying to do – to get in the comfort zone.
“It’s a harder game now than ten years ago. Before I could do whatever I wanted to do and now I have to find a little slot and stay with it. Don’t mess with it. I could do what I liked with a golf ball and had confidence to have a go at anything. Now I am different. Now I am trying to find a comfort zone and play that way. Find something that works and don’t mess with it. Just keep working on it under pressure.”
Faldo shares third place with Davidoff players Mike Cunning from America and Koreas Charlie Wi with six players a further shot back including European Tour players Gary Clark, a graduate from the 2001 Challenge Tour, Christopher Hanell and Carlos Rodiles.
A total of 71 players survived the halfway cut which fell on one under par. Among the casualties was BMW Asian Open champion Jarmo Sandelin, whose round started with five dropped shots in the first two holes after he started seven, seven. Major Champion Ian Woosnam was another player on the wrong side of the cut in his first tournament for over three months. Five bad shots proved costly as four found water and he double bogeyed three of the four par threes.