Khan keen to retain advantage

14/10/2011 18:21:40
Simon Khan  (Getty Images)
Simon Khan (Getty Images)
Simon Khan is determined to channel the pressure of leading the Portugal Masters into a positive performance over the weekend in Vilamoura.

England’s 2010 BMW PGA Championship winner carded an early 66 to reach 13 under at the halfway stage, and none of the afternoon starters were able to catch him.

The 39 year old has had something of a subdued season to date, with a fifth-place finish in France his best result of 2011 so far.

And Khan is determined to make the most of his chance to set the pace at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course.

“I can't remember the last time I was leading,” said Khan, who came charging from the pack on the final day to claim the biggest win of his career at Wentworth Club last May.

“It was probably the Scottish Open with Graeme McDowell in 2008, something like that. But I enjoy being up there. 

“Like I said yesterday, you have to embrace the pressure really, and if you want to be on the fringes on this Tour, then go and do something else. It's only the shadow of your ambitions, the pressure, and you have just got to enjoy that and take it into yourself and go and do it.”

After starting with back-to-back birdies, Khan gained another shot at the fourth and responded to his first bogey at the seventh with a birdie at the par three next from 40 feet to turn in 33.

His back nine began with a bogey, but consecutive gains at the 12th and 13th – he almost had a hole in one at the latter - put him back in front, and he holed from 25 feet at the 17th before finishing with another birdie at the difficult closing hole after an approach to six feet.

“I started great - birdied the first two holes and that settled me down quickly,” he added.

“I hit it perfect. I think that you have to be positive around this course, and if the wind gets up a little bit, it can be a little bit more testing. You've just got to hit your wedges close and definitely get the putter going, that's the key. 

“It's been a great two days. It's not been a brilliant year overall, but I always feel good coming around this course and enjoy playing in Portugal. I'm delighted with the two days.” 

Welshman Rhys Davies, first-round leader James Kingston and Chilean Felipe Aguilar are one behind Khan, with Swede Christian Nilsson and England’s David Dixon on ten under.

At 51st on The Race to Dubai, Davies can confirm his place at the season ending Dubai World Championship with a good showing on the Algarve.

And the former Trophée Hassan II winner impressed with seven birdies in a round of 67 to be 12 under at the halfway stage.

The 26 year old will certainly appreciate the late start on Saturday, with Wales facing France in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup at 9am.

“I think we have a great chance,” said Davies. “We have a really tough team to play against, there's no doubt about it. I think the French are quite unpredictable. 

“Thomas Levet was trying to tell me how dominant they were earlier, but I'm having none of it. I back my boys and I think they are great stuff. They have a really great team chemistry going, it seems, and they are playing some really good rugby.  We are fully confident on that we can turn them over tomorrow.”

South African Kingston threatened to match his sparkling opening 64 when he began with three birdies in his first four holes, but there were only two further gains separated by a bogey at the fifth.

“I'm not beating myself up,” said the 45 year old. “I played nicely out there. It was one of those days where I could have posted a decent round again, but it's never easy to do it after a low round the first day. Like I say, I played solid golf and I'm one behind.”

Like Davies, Aguilar is looking to book his place in Dubai in December – and at 61st in The Race to Dubai he is currently one place outside the cut-off point.

“I'm in good position,” said Aguilar, who mixed eight birdies with two bogeys. “This is where you want to be. I like to hunt from behind, especially on the weekend. 

“I have nothing to lose - I think I'm playing well this year.  I have my card and I want to get into The Race to Dubai.”