For the second time in seven days Raphaël Jacquelin finds himself looking down on the rest of the field at the halfway stage after a second round 69 in the BMW Asian Open stretched his lead to three strokes at the Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club.
Jacquelin is clearly enjoying his visit to Shanghai as he carried on the form which saw him finish second in Portugal and then joint sixth last weekend at Shanghai Silport as he picked up five birdies in his last 12 holes to pull clear of the field.
At nine under par, the Frenchman was three ahead of Korean Lee Sung, who shot a 70 for a six under par score of 138, with five players tied at five under par including the 2004 champion Miguel Angel Jiménez and eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie.
South Africa's World Number Five Ernie Els carded a second straight 71 to lie seven back in his attempt to wrest the BMW Asian Open title which he won by a record 13 strokes two years ago.
But Jacquelin continues to blaze a trail and will be the man to catch over the final 36 holes.
“We were lucky this afternoon and the wind died on the back nine,” admitted Jacquelin, who will be hoping for a French double this weekend with his football team Lyon poised to claim the championship title back at home. “You need some luck sometimes and we were lucky with this side of the draw.”
Looking to the challenges ahead, Jacquelin said: “I am really confident with how I am hitting the ball. I have improved my putting during the last few weeks and I am just trying to make the strokes and the swing I do in a practice round. And the birdies are coming. If the weather is good we will have to be low to win this tournament and the putter will have to be hot.”
Montgomerie kept his challenge very much alive with an eagle three on the 15th, converting a putt from 15 feet after a towering three wood approach from 265 yards. That took him two under par for his round after two earlier birdies were offset by two bogeys, and his round of 70 placed him in the group on five under par alongside Jiménez, Sweden's Joakim Bäckström (69), Denmark's Søren Kjeldsen (72) and last week’s joint runner-up Scott Hend of Australia (70).
“The eagle on the 15th helped there,” said the Scotsman. “And I have moved up from sixth to third. Now I need a low one tomorrow. I am playing okay.”
Spaniard Jiménez showed his fondness for BMW events once again when he surged through the field with a second round of three under par 69. The winner of the both the BMW Asian Open and BMW International Open in 2004 enjoyed a blemish-free round with three birdies on another wind-swept day at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club
Jiménez, a 13-time winner on The European Tour International Schedule, is feeling right at home at the Tomson course, especially after hooking up with the club caddie who was on his bag three years ago.
The man nicknamed "The Mechanic" because of his penchant for fast cars roared into contention with birdies on the 13th, 14th and ninth holes after starting his day on the back nine.
"I feel very comfortable in this position,” said Jiménez. “Five under par after two rounds when it's quite breezy on the golf course is very good. I played very well today, very solid from tee to green and that's the base of my game these last two days.”
His regular caddie failed to make the trip to the Shanghai event, co-sanctioned by The European Tour, the Asian Tour and China Golf Association, due to a visa snag but the 43 year old was pleased to have Tomson caddie Yong Li-hong by his side again.
"She's my lucky charm. She's a nice lady, she's very kind and it's good to have her on the golf course. She doesn't read the lines because I like to do that myself but it's nice to have her around. Every time I look back, she's always there," he said.
Els was poised for a weekend charge despite another frustrating day on the greens. "Just not making any putts out there," said the three-time Major Champion. "Anyway I am playing okay, just not scoring. It’s a little frustrating."
After catching the worse of the afternoon weather on Thursday, Els was hoping to find calmer conditions this morning but he was caught surprised by the stiff breeze that greeted him when he teed off.
"It was exactly the same. I thought we might have caught a bit of a break this morning but it was exactly the same wind as yesterday afternoon."
When asked if there was room for a title charge, Els said: "Absolutely. That’s why I am here, why I have made the trip, to have a go. Hopefully we can make some putts."
Kjeldsen, 31, started strongly with birdies on the 13th and 15th but endured a double bogey and bogey, sending a four iron into water on the 16th and then missing the green on the 17th before recovering with a birdie on the third.
"I got off to a great start. I hit the wrong club on the 16th and then made bogey out of nowhere on the next with a nine iron in my hand. But it is windy out there and pleased with the way I played coming in," he said.
Bäckström, free from injury problems which have blighted his career to date, is right in the frame as he looks to win for the first time since capturing the Aa St Omer Open two years ago.