Ian Poulter produced a scintillating second-round display to take advantage of Rory McIlroy's final-hole nightmare and claim a one-stroke halfway lead at the Hong Kong Open.
The 34-year-old Englishman had made an indifferent start to the tournament, carding just three birdies in a bogey-free round to sit five strokes behind overnight leader Mark Brown. However, the Ryder Cup star turned on the style yesterday, reeling off 10 birdies – including five in succession from the seventh – to charge up the leaderboard and finish with a career-best 10-under-par 60 and move on to 13-under.
Poulter could have fired the first magical 59 on the European Tour had he sank a birdie putt from 15 feet on the 17th, but the ball stopped just short of the hole.
"It is one of those courses where if you can get off to a good start you really feel you can shoot a good number," he said. "I had five birdies from the seventh and as soon as that happened I felt there were plenty of chances coming in. I am happy but slightly disappointed."
Poulter's cause was also helped by McIlroy's disappointing finish as the Northern Irishman double-bogeyed the last.
The 21-year-old had looked certain to be on course for at least a share of the lead as he approached the 18th but he first sent his tee shot into the bunker before finding the lake with his next shot.
McIlroy eventually found the green before rolling the ball into the hole from 10 feet but the damage was already done and he finished with a 66 to slip into a share of third alongside Simon Dyson.
"He [Poulter] is playing very well and he'll be tough to beat this week," said McIlroy. "I'll just have to try and play really well."
Dyson has certainly looked a contender in Hong Kong after following up yesterday's 64 – which included a hole-in-one – with a five-under 65 yesterday. The Yorkshireman was particularly impressive on the back nine as he reeled off six birdies to ensure he heads into the weekend just two shots off the pace.
Anthony Kang is one stroke behind Poulter in second after the American – chasing only a second win on the European Tour – carded a blemish-free, nine-under 61. "It came out of nowhere," he said. "I've been struggling all year but the last six weeks it has been getting better."
Graeme McDowell kept himself firmly in contention after a second successive 65 to sit in a group of five players three strokes behind Poulter in a tie for fifth. "It is tough not to get frustrated with this course because you feel you should birdie every hole," said McDowell. "You have to make yourself stay patient."Reuse content