STEPHEN Gallacher and Chris Doak kept themselves bang in contention at the Dubai Desert Classic, and Gallacher would have had a share of the halfway lead if overnight leader Richard Sterne hadn’t sunk a birdie putt on the 18th hole to take a one-shot advantage.
Gallacher shares second spot Danish youngster Thorbjorn Olesen and Tommy Fleetwood of England, with Doak a further shot behind.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia pulled to within three of Sterne despite struggling with shoulder problems that required treatment midway through his round.
Sterne, a South African who has struggled with his own injury problems in recent years, finished the day with a 12-under total of 132. Olesen (66), Fleetwood (68) and Gallacher (70) were a shot back. Doak’s 69 kept him in a tie for fifth.
Sterne had a topsy-turvy round in which he grabbed the lead with a birdie on 13 only to fall back into a tie when his drive went into sandy rough and he bogeyed 14. He recovered, though, with a 3-wood that travelled 250 yards and landed on the fringe for a long eagle putt. He rolled it to four feet and sank it for the birdie and outright lead at the halfway point.
“I’m pretty happy with the performance today. It was not as easy as yesterday,” said Sterne, who was a shot from matching the course record on Thursday with a ten-under-par 62.
“I held it together and I made a couple of good putts at the right time and a couple of good shots.”
The 165th-ranked Sterne barely played in 2010 and 2011 because of a bad back, and was forced to spend his time watching countrymen win majors while he recuperated. He has won five times on the European Tour – the last time in 2009 – but admitted this was a rare occasion when he was leading coming into the weekend.
“I always kind of won coming from behind. I’ve been close to the lead on Sunday so I know what it’s about,” Sterne said.
“There’s a long way to go in this tournament. The guys are bunched up and there are some good players and I think anyone five or six back has still got a good chance of winning.”
Olesen, who won his first tour event last year, started off with four birdies and sank a 15-footer on his tenth to move into a share of the lead. He briefly took the lead alone when he sank a 20-footer for one of his six birdies. He also didn’t drop a shot for the second day in a row.
Olesen is considered one of the rising stars of European golf. He signed, along with Rory McIlroy, with Nike last month and broke into the top 50 with a second-place finish in Abu Dhabi, ensuring he will play all four majors this year.
“I want to win twice this season,” he said. “That’s my main goal. So the quicker I can get the first one, the better.”
Six more players were within three shots of Sterne, including Garcia, whose 67 put him at nine under. Early on, it appeared it would be a disappointing day for Garcia. The tightness in his left shoulder during the first round continued yesterday. He contemplated withdrawing four holes into the round but reconsidered when he got hot, carding two of his five birdies and an eagle on the final three holes.
Scott Jamieson shot a level par 72 to sit on seven under and in a tie for 20th, with Mark Warren, Craig Lee and David Drysdale all a further two shots behind.
However, Colin Montgomerie carded a 75 to sit level par. He missed the cut that was projected to be at two under. Richie Ramsay, Scott Henry, Peter Whiteford and Ross Bain also made early exits.