Ryan Fox posted his second consecutive round of 65 after just beating the fading light to lead the weather-affected second round of the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.
The New Zealander was among the afternoon starters whose rounds suffered a two hour delay due to a rare bout of rain and lightning at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, but he carded six birdies when play eventually got back underway. He dropped his only shot of the day on the last hole, but made it safely back into the impressive clubhouse on ten under par just before darkness fell.
Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher will resume his second round also on that mark, with the Ryder Cup player facing six more holes to play on Saturday. He posted three birdies and one bogey on his front nine and three straight pars after the turn.
England’s Andy Sullivan (66) and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger (68) are two shots back on eight under par along with Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult and World Number One Dustin Johnson who have two and four holes remaining respectively. Johnson carded back-to-back birdies just before the suspension to keep on course to extend his impressive record in the event, having won the inaugural edition in 2019 and finished runner up 12 months ago.
Ryder Cup player Tommy Fleetwood (65) and Scotland Callum Hill (68) are in the clubhouse on seven under par, with former World Number One Justin Rose, overnight leader David Horsey and France’s Victor Perez all set to resume their rounds on Saturday also three shots off the pace.
Meanwhile, Norway’s Viktor Hovland once again underlined his Ryder Cup credentials in the presence of one of Europe’s legendary players, Ian Poulter, carding a four under par 66 to move to six under.
Hovland’s first Ryder Cup memory was watching Poulter’s iconic performance at Medinah in 2012 and the 23 year old played alongside the Englishman, who is on four under par, and former Masters Champion Danny Willett in the first two rounds at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. In total, 16 groups will complete their second rounds on Saturday morning.
“It’s been a really solid couple days of ball-striking, and I saw a few putts go in both days, which was nice. To be sitting near the top of this leaderboard is always a good thing. It’s a pretty strong field this week.
“I think we got very, very lucky with the draw. Obviously, no wind yesterday morning and showers that went through with the thunderstorms, and when we came back out, it was pretty much perfect. You don’t often get two days of no wind around here, and it was nice to take advantage of that. And, you know, you get the bad side of the draw enough times, it’s nice to get the good side every now and again.
“As long as I can make my flight on Sunday to make sure I get back into New Zealand, this is what you play golf for, to be in contention. And it’s been a while since I’ve been in this position. And I’ll just go out and enjoy it on the weekend and see if I can keep playing how I’m playing. I know if I do, I’ve got a good chance on Sunday.”
“I had a very nice start, birdieing the first hole and made another one a couple holes later and just gave myself really good chances early on. So I was in very good control of my game. And then the wind starting picking up and it started raining a little bit.
“The course played a lot longer, and you know, it was kind of a grind on a couple holes but I kind of managed to just hit it to 20, 25 feet a lot, and you’re just going to two-putt a lot of those putts. So it was pretty solid, but need to get it a little closer tomorrow for some more birdies.
“It was awesome (playing with Ian). He’s obviously a very passionate guy, and it’s cool to see that passion come out, even though it’s not a Ryder Cup. I could just kind of picture him and even Danny Willett in kind of that environment. I’d love to maybe be in the same setting some day.”