Richard McEvoy continued his impressive start to his rookie year on The European Tour by leading at the halfway stage of the Omega Hong Kong Open, but the winner of the Qualifying School has the imposing figure of defending champion Fredrik Jacobson in his rear-view mirror going into the weekend.
McEvoy, who tamed the Hong Kong Golf Club course with a superb opening 62, could not quite produce the same fireworks as on Thursday but his controlled second round 68 for a ten under par total of 130 gave him a three shot lead over fast finishing Freddie.
The Englishman showed a good deal of composure too at the Fanling venue, for both times he dropped a shot - on the seventh and 13th holes – he immediately followed them up with remedial birdies.
He enjoyed a little bit of good fortune too when his hooked drive at the 18th - his ninth hole of the day having started his second round at the tenth - ricocheted back into play off a tree when it appeared destined to fly out of bounds, and he escaped with a par.
“It is very pleasing to find myself where I am," he said. “I played good, solid golf today. I didn't hole as many putts as I did yesterday, but didn't really hit it in close enough to hole many putts. After such a low first round, it's nice to get a good steady round in, shoot a couple under and let everyone chase it.”
McEvoy’s quest for a remarkable debut win could not be much more daunting, however, for his closest challenger is the imposing figure of Jacobson, who won the 2003 Omega Hong Kong Open title on his way to finishing fourth on the Volvo Order of Merit, and who ended the season with victory in the Volvo Masters Andalucia.
The 29 year old started with a 68 but improved that by three shots in the second round with an excellent 65, helped by birdies at three of the final seven holes, for a seven under par total of 133.
In third place at the halfway stage is Jacobson’s fellow countryman Henrik Nystrom, who once again showed his fondness for the Hong Kong Golf Club, where he finished tied second behind Jacobson 12 months ago.
After opening with a 69 Nystrom, who narrowly missed out on regaining his full European Tour card at the Qualifying School Finals in November, put together a run of three consecutive birdies on a faultless back nine of 32 on his way to 66 and a five under par total of 135.
“I had a poor year in 2003 but I'm hoping a return to Hong Kong will revive memories of finishing second here last year," he said. “I am striking the ball well and now hoping for a good weekend."
McEvoy might well be the clear leader, but there is a large chasing pack on his tail aside from Jacobson and Nystrom, featuring players of the calibre of Irishmen Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke who finished on four under par 136 and three under par 137 after respective second rounds of 69.
Harrington, who enjoyed victory in Asia last year in the BMW Asian Open, believes the tournament is still wide open and admitted he expected someone from the chasing pack to make a bid for victory over the weekend.
“If someone can shoot ten under par for the first two rounds, someone else may shoot ten under for the next two rounds,” said the Irishman after a round of two birdies and a bogey. “The field is still in the hunt.”
Elsewhere, the shot of the day came from South African 27 year old Tyrol Auret, who recorded the first hole in one of the 2004 season, acing the 149 yard second hole with a wedge.
"That's my first hole in one and I am thrilled," said Auret. "I did not get too excited at first as I heard the ball hit the flag but as it is an elevated green did not see whether it had gone in or not. Then when I was walking up to the green I could not see the ball anywhere so I realised it was in the hole."