Rick Gibson deliberately didn’t look at the leaderboard during the second round of the UBS Hong Kong Open. When he finally did, he saw his own name at the top.
The Manila-based Canadian fired a four-under 66 to go with his first-round 65 at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling, leaving him on nine-under 131 for the tournament, one shot clear of American Edward Loar.
“Today I kept my eyes off the leaderboard and tried to create chances, which I did. If I keep creating chances like the last two days, I think I’ll have a good chance,” said Gibson, 44.
“It’s a good field and anytime you’re leading after two rounds, you’ve got to be happy. I just feel comfortable on this golf course and making some putts.”
Gibson, whose last win came in the Philippine Open in 2002, fired five birdies against one bogey to lead a UBS Hong Kong Open field that includes several European Tour heavyweights, including Colin Montgomerie, four shots back after a 66.
“I’m sure he’ll be in the mix on Sunday,” Gibson said of the European Tour Order of Merit champion. “I don’t think he’s won here yet. All I can do is play my game.”
Gibson revealed he had practised hard during a three-week break at home in Manila. “I went back to practice on some things which I haven’t practised on for the last few years.
“I hit a lot of iron shots out of fairway bunkers and it seems to have helped me with crisper iron shots, which is what you need around Fanling. It’s not very long but if you’re not positioning your ball with the irons you could be in for a long day.”
Loar’s 64 equalled the day’s lowest round. “I’m obviously very pleased,” he said. “I got off to a hot start and birdied the first four holes.
“The golf course is in great shape, the weather was absolutely perfect and there was hardly any wind out there. It was a good day for scoring and I took advantage of it.”
Sweden’s Martin Erlandsson was a further shot back in third on seven-under 133 after a 68 while England’s Andrew Butterfield, who fired a 65, and first-round leader Kang Wook Soon, with an even-par 70, were on six under.
Erlandsson was happy with his position. “It’s pretty good because it’s a tricky course,” he said. “It’s a little bit bumpy here and there and there are a couple of slopes you don’t want to go down, so you have to work hard at getting the mind game right out there. You have to accept the bad jumps when you get them and be grateful for the good breaks when you get them.”
Lurking dangerously at four under after a 67 was defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez.
“I played so good from tee to green that it is unbelievable that I didn’t score lower,” said the Spaniard.
“I don’t know how many putts I had today but it was something like 34, which tells its own story. The good thing is that I am giving myself chances and hopefully the putts will start to drop in over the weekend.”
Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn returned a 68 to be two under but Korean star KJ Choi faces a long haul up the leaderboard after a 72 left him one under for the tournament.