Robert Allenby of Australia shattered the course record at Sahalee Country Club to move into a tie for the 36 hole lead in the World Golf Championships – NEC Invitational with American Steve Lowery while Retief Goosen stayed in touch one shot off the pace with Justin Rose only two back.
Allenby, a consistent winner on The European Tour before joining the US PGA Tour, tore Sahalee’s back nine to shreds with an eagle and five birdies in a half of 29 for a second round score of 63, eight under par, and bettering the previous record by two.
The Australian, who had opened with a 69, goes into the weekend on 132, ten under par, sharing the mark with Lowery, who created the foundation for his round of 65 with an exceptional outwards half of 30.
Meanwhile Goosen, the 2001 US Open Champion, missed an opportunity to join the leaders at the top, or even take the outright lead, when he bogeyed the 17th and mis-read a six footer for a birdie on the last. The South African ended the day with a round of 68 and two round total of 133.
One behind him comes 22 year old Rose, who secured his wish to be in contention over the weekend with a second successive 67 for 134 while among the nine players grouped in eighth place on 137 are Denmark’s Thomas Björn, Vijay Singh of Fiji and England’s Lee Westwood, who showed further signs of encouraging form.
Allenby, though, was the undoubted star of the show on another day when glorious sunshine bathed the superb Sahalee course. He admitted: “I was pretty much in the zone all day. I felt very comfortable and managed to hit all 18 greens yesterday and 17 today. The difference was that I holed a few putts.
“It would mean a lot to win this title. I haven’t won this year, although I’ve played pretty well. Things turn around and I’ve been patient. I’ve played fairly well in the Major Championships but I’ve had n magic or spark. But last week I played awesome, well enough to win but made two big mistakes and that cost me my chance.”
Lowery attributed a change of putters earlier this season for his improved form, while Goosen and Rose were content to be in the shake-up over the weekend. Goosen, the 2001 Volvo Order of Merit winner, pointed out: “After two rounds, one shot off the lead is nothing serious. I played well apart from mis-reading a couple of putts. Otherwise I’m pretty happy.
“It’s pretty much bunched up now at the top of the leaderboard. If the weather stays like this it could be close to an 18 under par winning score.”
Rose admitted he is now in a "great position" after matching his opening 67. He added: "At the start of the week I would have settled for four 67s. I don't think 16 under par will be too far away.
"I think my game has got to a level where I'm beginning to expect to contend. I'm delighted to come here for the first time and play to my potential. I do believe in myself that I can play at this level now."
There were mixed fortunes for several members of Europe’s Ryder Cup Team. Björn and Westwood both shot 69 to stand at five under par, although the former felt aggrieved that his seven birdies had not been rewarded with a lower round.
“Every time you have seven birdies in a round you expect to shoot a decent number” he said. “There were too many mistakes and my game is close, but not quite right. If I can continue to make birdies and take the mistakes out of the round then I can put together a low number, but I need to get out and put some pressure on early.”
Westwood had only one birdie fewer but a total of four bogeys prevented him from getting closer to the lead. However in view of his recent form, the Englishman was not displeased with a tie for eighth place.
“Two rounds in the sixties here is always useful” he said. “It was good again today and nice to make a few birdies. Only one or two errant shots cost me a few strokes.”
The decision of Colin Montgomerie to retire mid round with a recurrence of back problems was not good news for either the player or Ryder Cup Captain, Sam Torrance. The seven time European Number One played the front nine in 39, three over par, then felt compelled to pull out of the Championship.
A crestfallen Montgomerie commented: “I am very disappointed. It’s a real pity because I was looking forward to coming here and competing. My back has been causing problems all week and if you can’t compete with others who are physically fit then there is no point in carrying on.”