South Korean young gun Kim Do-hoon shot a three-under 69 yesterday to lead by one stroke at the halfway stage of the Volvo China Open and stay ahead of a powerful chasing pack.
Lurking just behind the 21-year-old at the US$2.5 million event are Asia’s first major winner Yang Yong-eun, Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee and Welshman Jamie Donaldson.
Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal (69) and Sweden’s Mikko Ilonen (67) share fifth place at nine-under, while Chinese star Liang Wenchong (70) is alone at eight-under at the Suzhou Jinji Lake International Golf Club near Shanghai.
Kim could even afford a bogey on the 18th, the hardest hole on the course, following birdies on three, nine, 10 and 12.
“I thought I’d be nervous because it’s such a big event, but I’m not nervous at all. There are some world-class players in the field, but that doesn’t bother me,” said Kim, who finished runner-up in last year’s SK Telecom Open.
Yang carded a 66 and was delighted after a round that featured seven birdies, including four in a row from the 11th.
“The weather was more friendly, so I was more aggressive. I’m satisfied as I didn’t have much practice, as I’ve slept a lot due to jet-lag after traveling from Augusta,” said Yang, who finished joint eighth at the Masters last week.
Thongchai, who shared a course-record 64 with Kim in the first round, continued to impress after rebounding from the left-arm injury that forced him to withdraw in the second round of the Masters.
“I hit the ball well again today, but I missed a lot of putts,” said the 40-year-old, who won two European Tour co-sanctioned titles last year.
Zhang Jin, the 14-year-old qualifier from China, missed out by one shot on becoming the youngest player ever to make the cut on the European Tour after shooting a 72 to finish one over.
Defending champion Scott Strange of Australia also missed the cut after rounds of 76 and 72.
WOODS TO TEE UP
AFP, CHARLOTTE, North Carolina
Tiger Woods, who finished fourth at the Masters in his first tournament in five months, will tee up again in two weeks at the Quail Hollow Championship.
Woods committed on Thursday to the tournament, which runs from April 29 to May 2.
Woods made a highly anticipated return to competition at the Masters, ending five months of self-imposed seclusion that followed a withering sex scandal.
He has played Quail Hollow — formerly known as the Wachovia Championship — four times since it was introduced to the PGA Tour in 2003. He won in 2007 and was fourth last year, finishing two shots behind winner Sean O’Hair.
The tournament will be his first since the scandal where tickets are sold to the general public.
That contrasts with the tightly controlled conditions at Augusta National, where weekly passes are secured months in advance and fans fear losing them if caught showing poor etiquette.
Woods received warm applause when he teed off in the first round and the support remained steady throughout the week.
Quail Hollow tournament director Kym Hougham said organizers had been preparing for Woods’ possible participation for some time and had security plans in place.
“I think our crowds are very respectful and they always have been. The players have always told us that,” Hougham said of the possibility that Woods would face hecklers.