Zhang leaves best until last with 20-foot putt

Zhang Lian-Wei thrilled home fans with a birdie at the 18th hole to take a share of a one-stroke lead after the second round of the Asian Open yesterday.

Zhang fired a three-under 69 in blustery conditions to join the Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen on a five-under total of 139, one ahead of Darren Clarke.

"It was very windy throughout the whole day. Before the round, I was thinking I would have been happy just to break even," Zhang said. Holding par amid swirling, gusty winds for 10 consecutive holes, Zhang picked up birdies on the 11th and 12th, before signing off in style, holing a 20-foot birdie on the 18th.

"I thought if I could hit an eight iron on to the green and two-putt for my par, I'll be happy. But seeing [playing partner] Peter Hedblom's putt, I learned the line and I holed my birdie putt. It was perfect," said Zhang, who became the first Chinese player to win on the European Tour at the Singapore Masters in 2003.

After costly missed putts on Thursday, Clarke found some timely form on the greens, sinking three birdies in five-holes. The overnight leader Peter O'Malley of Australia was unable to repeat his sparkling first round, slipping to a 74 to reach the clubhouse two strokes behind the leader.

The Australian finished tied for third place on 141 with the Briton Miles Tunnicliff, who carded a two-under 70. Retief Goosen is one shot further adrift, alongside the Asian tour of merit leader Mark Brown.

Sweden's Henrik Stenson and Jeev Milkha Singh of India each struggled with four-over 76s to be five off the pace at even par with Greg Norman.

Zhang's patient round completed a banner day for China, after the Chinese number one Liang Wenchong and 18-year-old amateur Hu Mu earlier broke par to move into contention three strokes behind the leaders.

Britain's David Howell, at four over, and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, a further stroke back, missed the cut.

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