Michael Lorenzo-Vera maintained his lead in the Volvo China Open after a second round littered with birdies kept the young Frenchman ahead of the field in China’s capital city.
Lorenzo-Vera mixed seven birdies with two bogeys and a double bogey in a round of 69 to move to eight under par 136 and a stroke clear of England’s Richard Finch and Ireland’s Damien McGrane. Another Englishman, Oliver Wilson, finished a further stroke adrift after birdieing the tough final four holes at Beijing CBD International Golf Club for the low round of the week, a six under par 66.
Overnight leader Lorenzo-Vera admitted to being full of nerves when he set out after a restless night thinking about leading a European Tour event for the first time. Those nerves looked to have been settled when he birdied two of his first four holes although he double bogeyed on the tough 14th, his fifth, when he found trees off the tee.
However he remained focused and a birdie on the 17th certainly had a calming influence as he hit back with four more birdies on the front nine. He stood two clear playing the last but three putted his final hole to finish one stroke clear.
“I’m super happy,” he beamed. “Yesterday it was quite hard for me to get to sleep as I was thinking too much about what might happen.
“I might always look super relaxed but the hands are always shaking. It took nine holes to get relaxed. Normally it takes three holes but not today. I suppose the weekend will be harder.”
Asked how he would cope with leading going into the weekend, Lorenzo-Vera replied: “I will trust my caddie. He knows when to make me laugh or not. I am putting a lot of pressure on him so hope he is going to be good. And turn through the ball. Things will happen but it is just golf and just try and make good decisions and play 100%.”
He also thought a couple of beers might help him sleep.
McGrane has been regularly knocking on the door this season and came close to making his winning breakthrough when he finished second in the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters. His confidence remains high after a second round 69, highlighted by an eagle three on the 13th where he chipped in from short of the green.
“I have played well now for 36 holes,” said McGrane. “The course is difficult and the conditions this afternoon were much more difficult than we experienced yesterday morning so seven under par is a good score. I made the most of my opportunities and kept as many bogeys off my card as possible. That’s what you have to do out there as it is a difficult course.
“I have played a lot of good golf this season and it is a long year. I hope to continue and I am still waiting for an opportunity to win my first tournament. I am playing well and am not losing heart. There are swings and roundabouts on the golf course from week to week but I haven’t lost my confidence from the start of the year and that is key for me. Regardless of what happens I believe I am playing well.”
Finch had set the early target after a second round 69 took him to seven under par. The Englishman, 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.
“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.”
Wilson seemed genuinely shocked by his grandstand finish over the challenging finishing stretch. After a bogey at the 14th, he felt as he if had nothing left in the tank but with the pressure off he hit a series of stunning shots to close with four birdies.
“To birdie the last four holes around here, I would take that for the weekend,” he said. “It is a tough finish here so that was very nice. It just happened really. I didn’t expect it. After the 14th I was looking forward to coming in without any disasters on my card but turned it into a great round.”
Wilson also benefitted from a few tips from fellow pro John Bickerton on the range, and if he can maintain his relaxed attitude will be well placed to challenge in the event sanctioned by The European Tour, Asian Tour and the China Golf Association.
Markus Brier has mounted a strong defence of his title after he too shot a 69 to lie in a four way tie at four under par 140.
“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.”