France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera and South African pair Justin Harding and George Coetzee all followed an opening round 68 with another 4-under-par round on day two to share the lead on 8-under-par heading into the weekend at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Lorenzo-Vera started the day with a birdie on the tenth hole but suffered a mid-round stutter before bouncing back with birdies on both the par-3s on the front nine.
“Today I had a lack of energy in the middle of the round – I had a three putt from eight metres for eagle at the 18th and then made bogey on the 1st after a poor tee shot and an even worse lay-up,” said Lorenzo-Vera. “But I’m happy with how I handled it and played my way back into the round.”
“It was nice at the beginning. We were downwind on the 10th, so had a short second shot into the green which were really good – very grainy, but still very fair. It was just a bit harder in the middle of the round. It was a really early wake up call and I lost a bit of focus, but that was the only difference compared to yesterday.”
Harding joined Lorenzo-Vera after a strong finish to his round. The 33-year-old made three birdies in a row after the turn before another gain at the par-3 17th saw him get to 8-under.
“I’m very happy,” said Harding. “It was a tough day starting out but the wind settled down a bit later on. I hit some good shots and could have holed a couple more putts but I’m happy to put myself in this position after two days and we’ll see what happens.”
Coetzee rode his momentum into day two, reaching 8-under with a lengthy birdie putt on the par-3 8th, his penultimate hole, and he made a tricky par save on the 9th to keep his card blemish-free.
“I’m happy to be playing some better golf, making some putts and hitting some good shots,” said Coetzee, who has scored four top ten finishes in the Qatar Masters but has missed his last two cuts on the European Tour. “I’m in a better place mentally. I played well in parts in the WGC-Mexico Championship and hit some good shots in Oman last week – mixed in with a couple of blunders – but I feel like things are falling into place this week.”
England’s Oliver Wilson was the last man to qualify for the event as he doesn’t have full status on the European Tour after finishing outside the top-15 on last year’s Challenge Tour ranking. However, he took full advantage with a 68 today following a 69 yesterday to sit alongside three other players on 7-under-par.
“I’m very pleased and to be bogey-free for two days is something I’m delighted with,” said Wilson, who won twice on the Challenge Tour last year. “I have experience around this course, which helps, and I’ve been playing solid, hitting a lot of fairways and finding the middle of the greens.
“Last week, I got one step closer to getting into the field for the Qatar Masters each day. I’d already booked my flights to Doha so I was prepared and to get the nod after my final round was great. It’s hard not to put pressure on yourself. It’s a different position when you can plan a schedule and you know you have 25 or 30 events, you can be a bit more patient – but I don’t have that, I don’t know how many events I’m going to get in.
“I’m just trying to improve. I’m really pleased with what I’ve done in the last year, I’m moving in the right direction and getting more confidence in my game. There’s still a long way to go but, hopefully, the results will come and at the end of the year I can look back, be pleased, and have a schedule for next year.”
Wilson is joined by South Africa’s Erik Van Rooyen, Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura and Spaniard Adri Arnaus one stroke off the leaders while a group of eight players are on 6-under-par including Scotland’s Richie Ramsay, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Australia’s Deyen Lawson, who made a memorable hole-in-one at the 17th.
The ace was Lawson’s second in the space of a few months having won a BMW 850M for one at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December. However, there was no prize on offer for his ace at the 17th today.
“It’s always nice when you get a ‘one’,” said Lawson. “The prize I won for the ace at Leopard Creek was a massive deal – winning the car was huge. Today, after it went in I looked behind me and saw the big advert for the hotel and I joked to my caddie ‘I’ve won the hotel’. It’s always exciting. It was the same club – an 8-iron – and I hit it solid but thought it was going to come up a bit short – so to see it go in was nice.”