Jamie Donaldson holds a one shot lead of the halfway stage of the Volvo China Open – but no fewer than 12 players are within two shots and poised to challenge over the weekend.
After a decade on The European Tour and 23 top-ten finishes, Welshman Donaldson is still looking for a maiden title, but put himself in pole position with a blistering 11 under par 61.
That took him to 13 under, with Jeppe Huldahl, Grégory Havret, Nicolas Colsaerts, Keith Horne, Peter Lawrie, Jeev Milkha Singh and Gareth Maybin all one further back.
“I think my best ever round before this was eight under par last year or the year before, so this was a lot better,” said Donaldson, who fired five birdies in six holes around the turn and 11 in total.
“I played great pretty much all the way. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and gave myself a lot of chances which you have to do here. It’s set for low scoring. Today everything went my way.
“It’s a course that’s open for low scoring. It’s a good golf course and the greens are fantastic – the conditions are great and it is set up for scoring but you’ve still got to play the shots and wait for the putts to drop. I kept patient and waited for it to happen today. “
The 35 year old insists his lack of silverware on The European Tour will not be a factor over the weekend.
“I’ve been at the top of the leaderboard a few times,” he added. “It’s a matter of same again tomorrow and you never know I might shoot the same again tomorrow.
“The same again would be marvellous. I’ll just have to add them up at the end and see what it comes to. What everybody else does is out of your control. It’s a case of giving yourself the best options possible.”
South African Horne still had four holes of his opening round to complete when he returned to the course, and two birdies saw him snatch the first round lead off Han Chang-won.
The 39 year old began following up his opening 63 with back-to-back birdies, and having dropped his first shot of the week at the 14th - his fifth - responded with a birdie three holes later en route to a 69.
"Yesterday I got off to a great start with birdies on the first four holes and kept going from there," he said.
"It's the sort of course you can get going on. There's not much to scare you out there. If you get the irons and putter going you can get a good score."
US Open Championship runner-up Havret completed a second consecutive round of 66.
"I had a good round," he said. "I birdied 16, 17, 18 then one and three so five under for six holes was the key.”
Big-hitting Belgian Colsaerts started his round with successive birdies, and not surprisingly picked up shots on both par fives on the back nine in his 67.
"I closed well this morning - an eight foot putt with one hole to go and made birdie and then made birdie on the last," he said. "That set the tone for the rest of the day and I birdied the first two on the round that followed. I just kept hitting greens and was very close to the flag."
Former Wales Open champion Huldahl signed for a 65 that included no fewer than eight birdies, which he put down to some good work on the greens.
"I holed a lot of good putts this week - that's the key," he revealed. "You still have to make the birdies on the course it's not really easy.”
Singh carded a second consecutive 66, and the man often credited with leading the growth of golf in India believes China could also be turning out European Tour winners on a regular basis in the near future.
“China is developing fast in golf,” he said. “There are so great players and I am so impressed with the course.
“They are international standard and in excellent condition. Golf is catching up fast in this country. It is going to be big in the future. The people are learning about the game and I think they are going to produce some top players.”
The home challenge is currently being led by Chinese Number One Liang Wen-chong and Wei Wei on ten under, while Spain’s Sergio Garcia continued his improvement to advance to 11 under and a share of ninth place.