Angel Cabrera earned himself the moniker of the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ when he powered his way to victory in the BMW PGA Championship two years ago and the Argentine moved through the gears once again to take a share of the halfway lead with Justin Rose of England.
Cabrera made the fastest possible start to Friday’s second round on the West Course at Wentworth Club by holing his eight iron approach to the first green for a surprise eagle two.
Five hours later and the South American was receiving the applause from the packed grandstand behind the 18th green after a closing birdie completed the best card of the day, a six under par 66 that equals the lowest score for the refined West Course.
Route 66 took Cabrera right to the top of the leaderboard on eight under par 136 alongside Rose, who added a 70 to his opening 66 to remain in a share of the lead.
A stroke behind on seven under par 137 is Wentworth Club attached professional Ross Fisher, who staged his own grandstand finish by playing the last three holes in a birdie-eagle-birdie flurry for a five under par 67, and Marcus Fraser of Australia, who was round in 70.
Padraig Harrington lies a further shot back on six under par, the Irishman keeping his hopes of an Irish Open and BMW PGA Championship double, and subsequent €1 million bonus, very much alive with a second 69.
Paul Broadhurst of England, the joint overnight leader, remained at six under after a level par 72 and also on that mark were Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez (68), third last year, Shiv Kapur of India (71) and Australian Matthew Millar (69).
“I was very lucky to win here two years ago. It meant an awful lot to me, but it’s in the past now, and I’m enjoying the chance of being in perfect position for the weekend after that 66. To make six under on a very tough course is very good.
“Wentworth is great. I always love coming here and it seems to bring out the best in me. The West Course is very similar to a lot of courses we play in Argentina where driving is the key. You have to keep the ball in position off the tee,” commented Cabrera, whose scorecard was lit up by three twos and no dropped shots.
Rose, who led at halfway three years ago, endured a mixed day in contrast to his superbly controlled 66 of Thursday, registering seven birdies – three in his last three holes - and five bogeys for a 70.
“The finish turned the day from a bad day into a good day,” he said. “That was a great way to finish and salvage the day.
“It’s a great start, and it’s nice to be in the hunt going into the weekend. It’s about jostling for position and trying to stay with the lead or as close to it as possible.”
For Harrington, it’s also about a €1 million bonus in addition to the €725,000 first prize and a wonderful eagle at the 17th, when he hit his hybrid approach to six feet of the pin and rolled in the putt, kept that huge windfall in his sights.
“Generally I wouldn't have any inclination of how much money we are playing for on a given week, because you do not want to be focusing on it too much, thinking what a certain putt might be worth if you miss it. But this week there is a side bonus and I am very conscious of it. It’s actually providing me with entertainment, but I am not going to let it hang over me and distract me.”
Fisher, who briefly held the lead on the final day of the Dubai Desert Classic in February, showed once again that he has the mental strength to cope with the highs and the lows of the game.
The 26 year old Englishman started his second round with a double bogey six but responded immediately by picking up a shot at the par three second.
Further birdies followed at the fourth, seventh, eighth and 12th holes, either side of a bogey at the tenth, before his spectacular birdie-eagle-birdie finish.
“I guess I’m just very level-headed, very easy-going. I just enjoy playing golf and I’m a confident type of guy on the golf course,” explained Fisher.
“I feel really good in myself and with my game at the moment. To hear your coach say, 'You know, you're absolutely perfect. Your divots are perfect. You’re flushing it’, gives you so much confidence. And obviously the last two days have shown it and I’m not just here to make up the numbers and represent Wentworth Club. I’m here to win the tournament, which I firmly believe I can do.”
Fisher and Rose, a regular visitor to this golfing paradise in Surrey, would certainly be popular winners come Sunday evening but Cabrera, who hails from Cordoba in Argentina, a colonial city with a strong automobile industry, has proven to be a tough man to overtake at the West Course.
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