Richard Finch took the clubhouse lead in the Volvo China Open after a second round 69 took the Englishman to seven under par at Beijing CBD International Golf Club.
Finch, who claimed his maiden title with victory in the Michael Hill New Zealand Open at the start of the season after surviving a nail-biting end to his 2007 campaign when he only secured his card in his final event, benefitted from benign morning conditions to set the halfway target ahead of the defending champion Markus Brier.
The 30 year old, who got married last month, picked up five birdies after a dropped shot on the first to pull clear of the field and, having also bogeyed the 14th, finished with a three under par 69 to lie on seven under 137.
Brier is mounting a strong defence of his title after he too shot a 69 for a halfway total of 140, four under par, just three behind Finch, while China’s Number One Liang Wen-chong bogeyed the last to finish at three under par alongside Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen.
Finch, however, is the man to catch after another solid performance, the highlight being a holed 45 foot birdie putt on the seventh.
“I’m delighted,” said Finch. “Yesterday’s round was a very important one with the wind in the afternoon and to shoot in the 60’s again is pleasing and has put me in a good position going into the weekend.
“First thing this morning it was benign and lovely out there. The greens had just been cut and we were second group out so it was perfect. The wind did pick up as we played the back nine but nothing compared to yesterday.
“There’s still a long way to go. It is halftime if you like. A lot of things can happen, such as with the weather which could be a big factor. In mornings it is not as windy but it picks up in the afternoon so I think there could be a lot of catching up from the early starters and anything is possible. We will have to see what the weather deals us.”
Brier has shown a clear liking for the Volvo China Open and is well placed to mount a challenge over the weekend.
“I am a step further than my last defence and made the cut at least and I am really up there at the moment,” said the Austrian. “It is looking good and no-one is running away with it so far. I am up there and that is where I said I wanted to be, so a good round tomorrow and hopefully I’ll be up there in contention on Sunday.”