Peter Hanson, the one European to draw a blank at the Ryder Cup, now has 10 of his team-mates chasing him at the BMW Masters in Shanghai.
While Welshman Jamie Donaldson crashed from four ahead to six behind with a second-round 74 – 12 worse than his opening course record – Hanson moved on to 14 under par with a nine-birdie 64.
The 35-year-old Swede, far from happy about being given only two games by captain Jose Maria Olazabal in Chicago a month ago, goes into the weekend two ahead of title favourite Rory McIlroy.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Hanson said. “Playing with the world No 1 is always fun. It used to be Tiger, now it’s Rory. I like to test myself and there’s no better way than head-to-head. It’s a good way to test your mental abilities and if you can play well it makes it so much nicer. I’ll be playing 30-40 yards behind him and he’s going to be tough to beat, but hopefully I can give him a match.”
McIlroy added a bogey-free 65 to his first day 67 and that opened up a three-stroke gap to third-placed Robert Karlsson, who burst out of the pack with a 64. “I played very well and gave myself a lot of opportunities,” said McIlroy, seeking a fifth victory of the season on the same Lake Malaren course where he won the Shanghai Masters a year ago. “I saw Peter was going well and wanted to stay in touch. When I needed to get up and down I was able to make those and then got on a nice little run.”
He had a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th on a day when Paul Lawrie carded a second successive 69 to sit in a tie for 16th on six-under, eight behind Hanson.
Donaldson’s golden touch of 24 hours earlier deserted him with five bogeys in nine holes either side of the turn. “There were too many sloppy shots,” he commented. “It was a tough day and slightly frustrating, but that’s golf sometimes.”
On eight-under, he is in a share of fourth place with another Swede, Alex Noren, England’s Justin Rose and Irishman Shane Lowry, winner of the Portugal Masters only two weeks ago. Lowry dropped plans to go the PGA Tour qualifying school afterwards and admitted after his 64: “I did a bit too much celebrating – it was a bit mental – but I came here early and did a good bit of practice”.
Karlsson might have to enter the Tour school in America to keep his card there. With one event to come next month, he is down at 161st on the money-list and only the top 125 retain membership. At least he is back playing well after the horrors of the summer. He was having such problems with his swing that he even pulled out of The Open just before it started.
Rose is second to McIlroy on this season’s European Order of Merit – the Northern Irishman has already secured that title in the States – and a second successive 68 kept alive his hopes of reeling him in.
Luke Donald, who did the trans-Atlantic double last year, is in joint-eighth place on seven- under and both Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter five-under. Richie Ramsay is down the field on five over.