Canadian Rick Gibson may have had the honour of grabbing the lead at the halfway stage of the UBS Hong Kong Open but it was Colin Montgomerie who grabbed most of the attention in Fanling as the eight time European Tour Order of Merit winner moved menacingly into contention. After opening with an excellent 65, Gibson continued his solid progress with a second round 66 for a nine under par total of 131 and a one shot lead over his fellow Asian Tour regular Edward Loar of the United States, with Sweden’s Martin Erlandsson third on seven under par 133.
However, it was the group of players who finished on five under par 135 which garnered most of the interest around the Hong Kong Golf Club, thanks to the presence in their midst of Montgomerie who moved effortlessly up the leaderboard with a flawless 66.
It could have been even better for the 42 year old Scot who let a hatful of chances slip away but he consoled himself with a strong finish, getting up and down from the middle of the fairway to save par at the sixth and birdieing the seventh before birdieing his final hole of the day – the ninth – following a sublime approach shot from the rough to five feet.
“It is always nice not to drop a shot but four birdies was disappointing because of the way I hit the ball and how close I hit the ball,” he said. “Yes, it is a reasonable score, but disappointing in many ways that it wasn’t better.
“But at least it has given me an opportunity to score low tomorrow and get into contention on Saturday night which is my goal in any tournament. We will see how we go tomorrow but it is set up for a better day after that.
“The 18th is a very difficult hole at 474 yards par four and you have to hook it round the corner which isn’t really my shot and I seem to tend to run through the fairway. I did that again and it was a seven iron from the rough which came out perfectly. It ran on to about five feet and I holed it which really is about a shot and a half on the field there which was great.”
That fact was illustrated perfectly by Erlandsson who dropped his only shot of the day at the ninth but three birdies elsewhere, including monster putts at the 11th and 17th, saw him more than pleased with his day’s work in the co-sanctioned event between The European Tour and the Asian Tour.
“I was a little bit nervous going out because I was five under to start with and I wasn’t striking the ball as well I would have wanted to yesterday but my putting was very good,” he said. “But I have to say my shots were getting better and better today so that felt comfortable and nice.”
One shot behind Erlandsson was his fellow European Tour colleague Andrew Butterfield of England who was more than happy with his second round 65 – which featured six birdies in total – and which moved him to six under par 134 and into a share of fourth with the first round leader Kang Wook-Soon of Korea, who stood still with a level par 70.
“It was great today,” he said. “I feel like I'm starting to play a bit better and the putter has been pretty good. I had 28 putts but mainly I didn't make many mistakes like yesterday when I hit into a few traps and on the short side and had a few silly mistakes. Today it was just one bogey and six birdies, so it was a little more solid.”
Leader Gibson returned to competitive action this week after having had three weeks at home practicing and admitted he felt a little rusty and apprehensive in the early stages. But five birdies in his second round to go with the seven he garnered in round one, soon put him at ease.
“It’s a good field here and every time we have a co-sanctioned event with The European Tour we are guaranteed a good field,” he said. “Anytime you are leading after two rounds, you have to be happy.”
Second placed Loar, the left hander who tried his luck recently in his native US PGA Tour Qualifying School but ultimately failed, cheered himself up a bit with a superb second round 64 which equalled the best round of the day as well as the course record for the redesigned layout.
Starting at the tenth hole, Loar began in sensational fashion with four birdies in a row and, although he could not keep that momentum going throughout his round, he also ended on a high with a birdie at his penultimate hole, the 188 yard eighth.
|T2||CHOI, K J||KOR||18||-8|