Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Irishman Shane Lowry built on his course-record equalling 62 opening round with a score of two under par to take a narrow one shot lead at the halfway stage over the South African pair of Louis Oosthuizen and Richard Sterne.
It was the British trio that galvanised the crowds in tricky windy conditions on day two with Westwood’s bogey-free round of 68 amongst the highlights while fellow Brit Poulter carded a 69 to finish nine under.
Speaking about his round, Westwood said: “I hit a lot of good shots and drove the ball pretty well. These fairways aren’t the easiest to hit. You’ve got to cross some angles, and they seem to have narrowed them a bit, so you’re going to miss a few.
“I hit a lot of good putts that just grazed the edge, so I was pleased with the way that I played and hit some nice iron shots and controlled everything pretty well.”
Commentating on his halfway lead, Lowry said: “I’m really happy with that. I knew today was going to be a be a challenge after shooting such a low score yesterday.
“I tried to go out and make the same swings. To be honest, right from the start, I felt like I played well. I gave myself a lot of chances. But didn’t hole as many as I would have liked but overall, I’m pretty happy with myself.”
Major winner Oosthuizen, added: “I try and get my game to a position where I can compete every week. You have some weeks where you struggle but other weeks it comes naturally. It’s important to maintain control of your emotions and keep plugging away.”
Lucas Herbert, ranked 85th in the world, was one of the outstanding performers of the day, registering eight birdies on an otherwise clean card. However, the feel-good story from today’s golf came in the form of Scottish rookie Grant Forrest who carded five back-to-back birdies round the turn leaving himself five shots back.
Forrest, who is playing in his rookie season, commented: “I rolled a nice one in on 7 and just got the momentum going, I hit a couple close, and managed to hole a bunker shot. I got hot at the right time around the turn and I’m delighted.”
American big hitters, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, continued their steady progress and now sit in the middle of the pack at -7 and -4 respectively, poised to do something spectacular on day three. Two-time champion and crowd favourite, Tommy Fleetwood, found the going tough but made a clutch birdie on the 18th to make the cut to the delight of the spectators.
Fleetwood, who progressed to the weekend by the narrowest of margins, said: “I can’t stress enough the importance of just making cuts in professional golf. That’s the game. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. Making cuts is great, and I’m very happy that I’ve gotten another two days of golf.”