DOHA – South African George Coetzee, Justin Harding and France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera all made it back-to-back rounds of 68 to share the lead heading into the weekend at the Qatar Masters.
South Africa has more wins at this event than any other country with five, and Coetzee and Harding will be looking to extend that advantage, although a rejuvenated Lorenzo-Vera will be aiming to stop them and claim a first French victory.
The 34-year-old Lorenzo-Vera has brought a new mental attitude to Doha Golf Club as he seeks his first European Tour title in 178 events, and he set the target at eight-under after going out in the very first group of the day.
Harding – also seeking a maiden victory – and four-time European Tour winner Coetzee then reined him in during the afternoon to sit a shot ahead of another South African in Erik van Rooyen, Spaniard Adri Arnaus, Japanese Masahiro Kawamura and England’s Oliver Wilson.
Australia’s Deyen Lawson made his second hole-in-one of the season on the 17th en route to a 68 that left him in a group of eight players at six-under, with just five shots separating the top 48.
Lorenzo-Vera has been working with coach Justin Parsons and a sports psychologist, and the teamwork appears to be bearing fruit in the Middle East. “It was different to yesterday,” he said.
“I had a lack of energy in the middle of the round. I was really happy with how I handled it and came into the round after that.”
Coetzee is making his seventh consecutive appearance at the event, having finished second in 2013 and achieved three further top-10s – including last season.
“I’m just happy to be playing some better golf,” he said. “I guess I made a bit of a mind switch, and started focusing a little bit more on what’s going on at the moment, instead of where I want to be in a couple of years.
“I was in contention seven years go, and I still haven’t won this thing, so I guess I don’t know the magic recipe.
“But I’ll be looking for it over the weekend.”
Harding finished third on the Asian Tour last season and has three top 10s in 2019.
“Each day is its own puzzle,” he said. “You’ve got to go sort it out, you can’t go out there thinking you’re going to play well, that’s certainly not the case.
“I’ve obviously got a bit of confidence, and that’s been built up through time and through some nice performances.”
Lorenzo-Vera birdied the tenth and 14th to hit the front, and while he dropped a shot on the first, he holed a monster putt on the third, edged two ahead on the fourth, and made a fifth birdie of the day with a tee shot to two feet at the eighth.
Harding birdied the first and bogeyed the second, but got on the green at the par-five tenth in two, and then put approaches inside 15 feet on the 11th and 12th for a hat trick of birdies.
A tee shot to three feet on the 17th gave him a share of the lead, and he did well to save par after finding water on the last.
Coetzee was bogey-free, and made a long putt on the eighth to go with birdies on the 10th, first and fifth to move to eight-under.