South Africa’s Richard Sterne managed to maintain his one-shot advantage on top of the leaderboard with a birdie on his final hole in the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday.
Sterne, who was one shy of the 19-year-old course record at the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club on Thursday with a 62, added a two-under par 70 round in decidedly tougher playing conditions to move to 12-under par 132 total at the halfway stage of the tournament.
That kept him one ahead of England’s Tommy Fleetwood (68), Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen (66) and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher (70), while Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer (68), Dane Andreas Harto (67) and Scotland’s Chris Doak (69) were tied for fifth at 10-under par 134.
Spain’s world No.14 Sergio Garcia almost pulled out of the tournament after a few holes with a shoulder injury, but recovered well with on-course treatment and shot a five-under par 67 to be tied eighth at 135 alongside Frenchman Romain Wattel and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh (both 67).
World No.8 Lee Westwood, the highest ranked player in the tournament, could not replicate the success of his horse Rerouted, who won his race on Thursday night at Meydan Racing Carnival.
The Englishman made a double bogey on his 17th hole and finished at one-under par 71 for a six-under par total.
Defending champion Rafael Cabrera-Bello added a second successive 69 to be tied 26th alongside Westwood at 138.
The 31-year-old Sterne, currently ranked 165th in the world, has five European Tour wins against his name, but the last one came way back in the beginning of 2009 after which he struggled for almost two seasons with a back injury.
Fully fit now, Sterne is looking for his sixth European Tour win come Sunday, but is aware he has a lot of work to do over the next two days.
“It was a pretty consistent round. The course was a lot tougher today with the wind and the greens definitely firmed out a bit. I think it’s going to be quite tricky coming to the weekend.
“There’s a lot of guys bunched up and you’re going to have to play pretty well on the weekend to be there on Sunday,” said Sterne.
Olesen, who continues his remarkable rise up the world rankings – he is No.43 within just two years of playing on the European Tour – said he would be happy if the conditions remain tough and windy over the next two days.
“It’s nice… I like to keep the ball low. It’s good for me when it’s windy. It was actually windy the whole day from the morning and I hope it remains like this,” said the 23-year-old, whose 66 was the joint best round of the day.
“I played more solidly definitely. I rolled the putts really nicely the first two days, and that’s why I’m 11-under. It was more solid today and I struck the irons a lot better today.”