Danny Willett on Friday made six birdies in a tournament-record 29 on the front nine at the BMW PGA Championship, setting up a four-under 68 that gave the US Masters champion a three-way share of the second-round lead.
Australia’s Scott Hend eagled the last for a 69 to tie Willett and former US PGA champion Y.E. Yang (69) for the lead on 10-under 134 in the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth.
Willett, who was among the morning starters, reached the turn holding a five-shot lead on 12-under, but bogeyed four holes on the back nine — including holes 15, 16 and 17 — with birdies on the 14th and 18th holes.
“I played great most of the day and then chucked a couple of horrid shots in there,” said Willett, whose group was put on the clock for slow play.
“It was still not quite the back nine I was hoping for, but 10-under, you would have taken it at the beginning of the day,” he said.
South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl (68) is a stroke off the lead. Former top-ranked players Luke Donald (72) and Martin Kaymer (70) are six shots back.
Playing his second event since winning at Augusta National, Willett hit form after making a birdie putt on the third hole.
He tapped in for birdie on hole four, almost holed his approach for eagle on hole six and sent his second shot on hole eight to less than three feet from the pin.
Willett, the only player from the world’s top 20 in the field, then birdied hole nine and was threatening to run away with the tournament, with conditions prime for low scoring for the second straight day.
In the end, he needed a birdie on hole 18 to be in a share of the lead going into the weekend.
“Two tales — played good, then a couple of silly shots on the back nine ... but 68, you have got to look at the full number, 68 is a good score out there,” Willett said.
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