Martin Kaymer holds the halfway lead, but Rory McIlroy, propelled on by his first hole-in-one as a professional, is only two shots back
Martin Kaymer leads the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship by a shot having equalled the record 36-hole score for tournament at 13 under par. This record he had set himself in 2008 when winning the first of his three Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship titles.
Kaymer, who played in the morning, would have be joined at the top of the end-of-day leaderboard by Thomas Pieters, had the 22-year-old not bogeyed his final hole, the 9th, in his afternoon round. Pieters, who narrowly missed out on a maiden European Tour title when he lost to Miguel Ángel Jiménez in a play-off at the Open de Espana last May, has yet to win on tour.
Supporters of the underdog will be rooting for Pieters, but the competition could come down to a heavyweight clash between Kaymer, three times a winner of the event, and Rory McIlroy, three times a runner-up. McIlroy is two shots behind Kaymer having made a six under 66 which included five birdies and a hole-in-one on the 177-yard 15th.
“It was straight downwind, 177, and I had a 9-iron,” the World Number One explained. “As soon as it left, it looked like it had a chance. It took a nice little hop to the right. It’s my first one ever in competition as a pro, so obviously the beers are on me tonight. I had been playing well but had not been putting so good. So that took the putter out of it thankfully!”
This is the third hole in one so far in the tournament after Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Tom Lewis made aces on the opening day. Lewis shot 75 on the second day to miss the cut. But Jiménez, who is providing high entertainment on the back nine where so far he has scored a hole in one, eight birdies, five pars, three bogeys and one double bogey, continues on to the weekend, tied in 16th spot. One of those who is tied with Jiménez is 16-year-old Chinese amateur Guan Tian-Lang.
With the cut set at two under a par-saving putt for Justin Rose on his final hole, the 9th, saw the world number six just sneak into the weekend, extending his run of consecutive cuts made on The European Tour to 18 since The Open Championship of 2013.
But defending champion Pablo Larrazábal failed to make it back for the weekend by one shot. World number two Henrik Stenson is another with a free weekend, having added a 68 to his opening 76.
The day’s best round was by Austrian Bernd Wiesberger who carded a 65, to take him into the weekend in a tie for 8th.