A wondrous eagle two on the 466 yard 15th, the toughest hole at Doha Golf Club, helped Australian Adam Scott into a three shot lead at the halfway stage of the Qatar Masters.
The 21 year old Australian eventually carded a flawless 66 for an 11 under par total of 133 and a healthy advantage over nearest challengers Klas Eriksson of Sweden, Anders Hansen of Denmark and José Manuel Lara of Spain who carded 70, 68 and 69 respectively for a total of 136.
But once the dust had settled in the desert, the buzz around the clubhouse was all about the master stroke Scott produced on the 15th to give him pole position going into the weekend.
Ironically, the winner of the 2001 dunhill championship did not produce the perfect drive, his tee shot running out of fairway into the semi-rough, but he more than made up for it with his second. His crisply struck five iron from 200 yards out pitched perfectly in the centre of the green 25 feet from the pin before rolling sweetly into the cup.
“You need a little bit of luck now and again because I certainly didn’t expect it to go in,” said Scott. “But funnily enough, I was saying to my caddie the other day that it has been about five years since I holed a full iron shot like that in play, so perhaps I was due one!”
It was just reward for Scott’s overall performance which was exemplary from tee to green especially on the front nine where he made birdies at the first, fourth and seventh holes and saw numerous other chances go begging.
After the 15th, the Australian missed a birdie chance from 18 feet at the 16th but made no mistake at the short 17th after his nine iron tee shot hugged the right half of the green, rolling in his birdie effort from 15 feet to give himself a comfortable cushion for the weekend’s action.
“I’ll just continue hopefully to keep playing the way I have been playing,” said Scott. “I can’t control what other players are going to do but if I keep playing the way I have over the first couple of days then I think it will be good enough.”
Klas Eriksson shared the lead with fellow countryman Joakim Haeggman at the end of the first round but while the former Ryder Cup player slipped back outside the top 15 after a 73, Eriksson kept in touch with a 70, although he had to birdie two of the last three holes to maintain his challenge.
“I played pretty solidly all the way round but I just couldn’t quite get anything going until the end,” he said. “It was a little bit frustrating but conditions were a little tougher too with the wind getting up a bit and the greens were firmer.
“But the birdies at the 16th and 17th gave me a good chance for tomorrow. I am playing well and feeling really comfortable over the ball. My confidence is high and I’m really hoping for good things over the weekend.”
Somebody happy just to be in action was José Manuel Lara, whose participation in Dubai last week was his first action for over six months after having had to undergo an operation on tendons in his right wrist.
The schoolboy friend of Sergio Garcia is playing the 2002 European Tour season on a medical extension and took full advantage with a battling 69 which featured five birdies in total, to move into a tie for second.
“I like the course and I feel very comfortable here because it is a long course and I hit the ball quite a long way,” he said. “I also like the temperature, it is like Spain so it is perfect for me and thankfully my wrist is holding up fine.”
Sharing second place with the Swede and the Spaniard, Denmark’s Anders Hansen produced his second 68 of the week, with all the action coming on the back nine of the Doha course, his front nine after having started at the tenth, with five birdies and one bogey. By comparison his nine straight pars on the front nine were routine.
Further down the leaderboard, three players shared fifth place on seven under par 137, Jean Francois Remesy of France and the Scottish duo of Stephen Gallacher and Colin Montgomerie.
The seven time winner of the Volvo Order of Merit partnered leader Scott and could only look on in amazement at his antics on the 15th, but Montgomerie kept his composure and his challenge together with his own birdie at the 16th.
“It was a big swing on the 15th because all of a sudden I was four behind,” he said. “But there are only two days gone and I’m playing well and I’m confident for the weekend.”