Thomas Bjorn (Getty Images)
Thomas Björn holds a one shot advantage at the halfway stage of the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf at Royal Melbourne GC.
The 42 year old Dane added a second round 68 to his opening 66 to sit eight under par going into the weekend, one ahead of American Kevin Streelman.
Streelman surged four shots clear early on day two but paid a high price for a shanked bunker shot at the ninth, although the 35 year old can console himself with the fact that he and Matt Kuchar are on course to successfully defend the team title for the USA.
A winner of his first US PGA Tour title in Florida earlier this year, Streelman made his move early with four consecutive birdies at the start of his round.
The World Number 46 holed a ten foot putt at the first, two-putted for birdie at the second, knocked in a 15 foot effort at the third, then almost pitched in at fourth.
Streelman bogeyed the eighth then shanked from sand at the ninth and ran up a double bogey six, and with Björn recovering from an opening three-putt bogey with back-to-back birdies the pair were tied for the lead once more.
Björn pitched to five feet at the sixth, but Streelman pulled level on with a gain at the long 15th.
The Dane birdied the 13th from eight feet, but missed a chance to extend his advantage when he three-putted the 15th for par.
A great approach to six feet at the 17th put the 14-time European Tour winner two clear, but Björn overcooked his approach to the last and three-putted from off the back of the green.
“There were a couple of things that happened on the golf course today that really tested me,” he said. “I three-putted the first. I got caught a little bit there. I thought the greens were a lot firmer than they were early on and just got caught a bit there and then I patiently worked my way into the round and played solid.
“Maybe not quite as good as yesterday on the front nine but on the back nine I played awesome and just three-putted the green on 15, missed a very short putt there and then obviously the last.
“If you had asked me when the ball was in the air on the last I would have said you couldn’t have hit a better golf shot, so you have got to take that. You know, bounces go your way, and bounces go against you on this golf course, and maybe I was a bit unfortunate on the last.
“That was obviously disappointing but I played some really, really good stuff on that back nine and I have got to take that with me. I set out this week saying that this is a 72-hole golf tournament and I’m not really wondering about what score I am shooting.
“When you step on a golf course likes this you have just got to be in awe of playing them because it just goes to show that all these big long golf courses that are being built today, it’s not really needed. This is as tricky as it comes and it’s a fairly short golf course so it’s a pleasure to play and, as I said, it’s fantastic and you are just in awe of it really. I love this place.”
Streelman parred his last three holes for a round of 69, with a three shot gap back to Australia’s Jason Day and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos in third.
Kuchar’s three under 68 took him and Streelman to ten under, and puts them on course to retain the title he won in 2011 with Gary Woodland.
Björn and Thorbjørn Olesen, looking to give Denmark a first World Cup victory, are three back after the latter shot a one over 72, with a further four shots back to Australia and Japan.