Liang Wenchong stepped up his bid to become the first mainland Chinese golfer to win the UBS Hong Kong Open by grabbing a share of the second round lead on Friday (13 November).
China’s No.1 delighted the galleries at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling with a sizzling five-under-par 65 that left him tied with three other players at the top of the leaderboard.
Liang’s bogey-free effort – including birdies on the final two holes – put him on nine-under 131 for the tournament.
“I’m in a good position and I know that the next two days will be crucial,” said Liang. “If I continue to play as well as I’ve been doing the past two days, this will be a very good week for me.”
Liang claimed a lone birdie at the par-four seventh on the front nine but really hit form after the turn.
Back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th sent him moving up the leaderboard and he picked up another shot at the par-four 17th.
He finished with a flourish, rolling in an eight-foot birdie putt to complete an excellent afternoon’s work. “I tried to take it slowly and not get too impatient with my game,” said Liang.
“It wasn’t easy on the front nine. Luckily I got a birdie on the seventh that got my game going. I’m really happy with my back nine as I managed to get four birdies.”
Tied with Liang on nine-under were South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel (66), Holland’s Robert-Jan Derksen (68) and Frenchman Grégory Bourdy (67).
No mainland Chinese player has won the Hong Kong Open in the tournament’s 50-year history.
Liang, aged 31, is not only seeking victory at Fanling, he is looking to overtake Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee in the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit race.
With just three ranking tournaments remaining, including Hong Kong, he is second on the money list with earnings of US$740,544 – trailing leader Thongchai by US$197,114.
The UBS Hong Kong Open – joint-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours – carries a first prize of US$416,660.
Liang is bidding for his second European Tour victory to go with his triumph at the 2007 Singapore Masters. That same year he became the first player from China to win the Order of Merit.
Earlier in the day, Yang Yong Eun showed signs of the form that made him Asia’s first Major winner as he surged up the leaderboard with a 67 that left him on seven-under 133.
Yang – who became the first Asian player in history to win a Major when he triumphed in the PGA Championship last August – said he had struggled with Friday’s cooler temperatures at Fanling after a warm opening day.
But he was still content with his second round in which he mixed five birdies with two bogeys.
“The temperature was a surprise to me as I wasn’t expecting this kind of weather in Hong Kong,” he admitted.
“I had a hard time warming up and I had some difficulties trying to find my distance. It was a bit dark this morning and the greens were fast, probably because of the moisture today, so it was hard to judge the distance.
“I think I’ve a fair chance this weekend. I’ve been playing well since the last round in Shanghai and hopefully I’ll perform well this weekend, too.”
Yang was one of five players on seven-under, including UBS Hong Kong Open defending champion Lin Wen Tang of Chinese Taipei, who carded a 69.
Among the tournament’s big guns, Rory McIlroy (68) and Ian Poulter (66) remained firmly in contention at six-under while world No.4 Lee Westwood was four-under after an even-par 70.
First round leader Udorn Duangdecha of Thailand struggled on the second day, adding a 74 to his opening 62 to stand at four-under.