Sat, Apr 18, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Uihlein grabs lead, Watson struggles in windy Shenzhen

AFP, SHENZHEN, China

An American topped the leaderboard yesterday at the Shenzhen International on nine-under, but it was not world No. 4 Bubba Watson, it was Peter Uihlein, ranked 176 places lower.

Uihlein, voted European Tour Rookie of the Year after a stellar 2013, endured a lean time last season, but showed glimpses of his best form in carding a four-under 68 in windy conditions at Genzon Golf Club.

“It was tricky today. The wind was swirling quite a bit,” he said after starting his round on the 10th and playing the more difficult back nine in one-under, before sinking three birdies on the front nine.

“I got the back nine out of the way pretty quickly. I played very solid. I felt like getting anything under-par on the back nine was nice and I played a pretty stress-free front nine which is always good,” the American said.

His four-under round of 68 gave him a nine-under total of 135 and a one-shot lead over Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat at the halfway stage of the European Tour Event in the southern Chinese city.

The burly Thai, whose only European Tour win came at the 2013 Malaysian Open, made four birdies and one bogey after he turned for home to card a 69.

Watson struggled on the easier front nine and appeared to have trouble reading the grainy greens.

Starting the day at two-under, the two-time Masters champion dropped three shots before the turn.

The big-hitting left-hander fought back with birdies at the 10th, 13th and 16th, but bogeyed the 15th and 18th to card a two-over 74 and fall nine shots off the lead.

Kiradech had opened his challenge with a five-under 67 on Thursday and was pleased after completing a second card in the 60s.

“It was a great round again,” Kiradech said.

“The wind was getting up on a few holes before I finished, but the way I worked the ball was very good. Making four birdies on the back [nine] was a good way to finish,” he said.

Kiradech had a two-shot cushion over a quartet tied for third comprising Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, Gregory Havret of France, Darren Fichardt of South Africa and Englishman Matt Ford.

Overnight leader and local fan favorite Huang Wenyi was a shot behind Uihlein at one stage, before a disastrous triple-bogey seven at the 15th dropped him back into the field.

Having shot a best-of-the-day 66 on Thursday he could only manage 74 yesterday for a four-under total of 140 and a share of 11th place going into the weekend.

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