Pablo Larrazábal displayed a superb back nine fightback to retain the lead at the halfway stage of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club.
The Spaniard leads by one on nine under par after posting a one under par round of 71 on day two, but the 38-year-old’s second round was truly a tale of two nines.
The overnight leader made the turn at four over par following a double bogey on the par five ninth, but immediately responded with an eagle at the tenth. Three additional birdies put the finishing touches to a five under par back nine to complete a return to the top of the leaderboard on a windy day in Doha.
The six-time DP World Tour winner is closely followed by Chase Hanna of the United States, Poland’s Adrian Meronk and South African Wilco Nienaber, who all share second place on eight under par, with Romain Langasque of France a shot further back on seven under par.
Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson, English duo Daniel Gavins and Matthew Jordan, and Austrian Lukas Nemecz share sixth place on six under par, while Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult, whose seven under par round of 65 was the lowest round of the day, is part of the group in a tie for tenth at five under par.
Pablo Larrazábal: “It was a tough start. I didn’t expect the drive on the first to go so far right. I started par-bogey-bogey and that wasn’t in the plans for Friday. I went bogey-double bogey on eight and nine to shoot 40 on the front nine but I said to Raul, come on, yesterday we shot six under on the back and we know that we like the back.
“We know that we’re playing good enough, we’re not playing to shoot 40, we’re playing much better than 40 on the front nine. It was one of those days where you have to keep working and believe in the way you’ve been playing the last month or so and to keep fighting. There are a lot of birdie chances on the back and I took a few.
“It is even harder mentally when you shoot 40 on the front nine and you’re two over after three. Mentally you have to recover, you have to believe in the shots you plan and the shots you hit. That’s what we did and it paid off. To shoot one under par after going four over, it proves to us that we are in a good mental spot. We are ready to make mistakes and to recover them.”
Wilco Nienaber: “Both days were pretty good. I’m happy with both of them but today, being bogey-free, I didn’t think it was easy with this wind so I’m happy with the score.
“I’m happy with my game at the moment. More of the same coming at the weekend, hopefully, and I’ll just keep on doing what I do.
“The second shot on ten was nice today. It was really nice to make a birdie on ten, but that made it easier because I had a makeable eagle chance as well. I had 238, three iron and I hit it really nice and low into the wind off the left and I was really pleased with that.”
Chase Hanna: “It feels good. I joke a lot with my buddies back home – I’m either a missed cut or in contention guy. I played well both days and I was happy with how today went.
“It was a lot steadier today. I really hit it nicely off the tee and my iron shots were good, especially on the par threes. I kept it pretty stress-free. The times I just missed the greens I hit good chips and just kept it steady.
“I had two good finishes on this Tour last year, both in the UK when it was windy and growing up in Kansas you get a lot of wind. I certainly like the wind and I think my game suits the wind nicely.”
Adrian Meronk: “I got off to a good start, all was going well and then I slowed down a bit in the middle of the round but I got a good birdie on the last and overall the result is very satisfying.
“It was nice this morning, it wasn’t as hot but the wind picked up straight away so it was tricky, but I played solid.
“We had to adapt today because the wind was from completely the other direction and much stronger. We changed strategies and did a good job. It wasn’t as good as yesterday but I think it’s playing tougher.
“Today was much harder than yesterday. The wind direction was completely different and much harder so I just had to adapt my strategy and play from different positions with different clubs but I felt like we did a good job today.”