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Friday, 19 January 2018
Thomas Pieters  (Getty Images)
Thomas Pieters (Getty Images)

Thomas Pieters carded a flawless 65 to take the clubhouse lead midway through the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

The big-hitting Belgian carded seven birdies at Abu Dhabi Golf Club as he surged to 12 under par.

The Ryder Cup star, who finished second in this event in 2016 and fourth a year earlier, made three birdies in an outward 33 after starting on the back nine.

Pieters birdied the first then holed from 20 feet at the second, with two putts from just off the green at the par-five eighth providing another gain.

The 25 year old found sand with both his tee shot and approach at the ninth, but chipped in from the bunker for an unlikely closing birdie.

That left him one ahead of Spain's Jorge Campillo, who also birdied his last two holes en route to a bogey-free 64.

Pieters was then two clear of two of his EurAsia Cup team mates from last week's European win - England's Ross Fisher, who went round in 67, and France's Alex Levy, who matched Pieters' 65.

Two more members of Thomas Bjørn's team – two-time winner Paul Casey and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger – were a shot further back on nine under alongside Australian Sam Brazel.

It was nice to hole one on the last after two terrible shots - ​Thomas Pieters

“The conditions are perfect, no wind,” said Pieters. “It's nice out there. So you need to take advantage of the conditions.

“I've done well here in the past and it suits me. We hit driver wherever we can and the rest of it, you know, it's good ball-striking and going at a couple flags with wedges when you have them that you need to do that.

“It was nice to hole one on the last after two terrible shots. But the rest of it was decent today. Ball-striking was good.

“I hit most of the middle of the greens. If I had a wedge, I went at the flag and I think I got up-and-down or made birdie with a wedge in my hand three or four times. It wasn't really that fancy today but a very good round.”

Campillo, chasing a maiden European Tour title in his 194th event and having finished as a runner-up three times, was pleased to take advantage of perfect scoring conditions.

“It was perfect - no wind,” he said. “The greens are perfect, and every time I look up, everyone is making a putt. The rough is a little lower than normally. I mean, it's perfect to shoot low. You still have to do it but it's a great day to play golf.

“I have a top-ten here and I normally play good around here. So I do like the course. I think it's a fair course. It's tough but it's playing easy but it can play hard with the wind.

“I played good last week. Practising hard this winter and I'm glad the work is paying off.” 

Overnight joint leader Hideto Tanihara slipped back with a level-par 72 to remain six under, while Tommy Fleetwood was a shot better off having played his first four holes in one under after being among the later starters as the defending champion looked to back up his opening 66.

Fleetwood picked up another shot on the eighth and then holed a 40-footer on the 12th to move to nine under par with six to play. 

The next best-placed player out on the course was the Race to Dubai champion's playing partner Rory McIlroy, who was four under for the day and seven under for the tournament on his return from injury, with World Number One Dustin Johnson – the third member of the marquee group – five under for his round and the week.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1FLEETWOOD, TommyENG18-22
2FISHER, RossENG18-20
T3MCILROY, RoryNIR18-18
T3FITZPATRICK, MatthewENG18-18
T5PAISLEY, ChrisENG18-17
T5PIETERS, ThomasBEL18-17

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