Johannesburg — South Africa’s Justin Harding fired a four-under 68 to open a two-shot lead on 11-under, in the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic, at Emirates Golf Club, on Friday.
Harding had to return to the course early on Friday morning to complete his first round, and he picked up a birdie at the par five 18th to tie the lead on seven-under 65. Harding leads England’s Tyrell Hatton who shot rounds of 69 and 66.
In a share of third place is SA’s Erik van Rooyen on eight-under after he carded rounds of 69 and 67, and Fabrizio Zanotti (66 70) of Paraguay.
Without much time between his two rounds, Harding began his second trip around the course with a birdie four on the tenth (his first hole). Another birdie followed at the par five 13th, before two dropped shots at the 15th and 17th. Harding then birdied the 18th for the second time of the day, to make the turn in one-under.
Harding made another gain at the par five third, but the highlight was holing a short-iron shot from 167 metres for an eagle two at the sixth. That propelled Harding’s score into double figures as he surged into a comfortable lead in the clubhouse.
Harding said: “It’s a hole that I bail on over the years. I had a good number which allowed me to pitch it ten or 15 short of hole, and the cameraman actually said, "I like it." I thought he was joking. It was just a good swing. It’s an added bonus with going in, which makes up for a couple other things around the golf course.”
Going into the weekend with a two-shot cushion will suit Harding well he explained.
“I've played this golf course well over the years.I played quite nicely last week. Barring a bad finish, would have been a Top-10 result. Game seems to be close.
“It’s just a matter if I can control the putter and make some putts, we are always going to be there and thereabouts.”
Van Rooyen, meanwhile, reeled off six birdies and just one bogey for his five-under effort and firmly placed himself in contention heading into the weekend.
“I’m very pleased, besides one bunker shot on eight I played very good golf,” Van Rooyen said after his round.
As for his title ambitions in Dubai, Van Rooyen said: “It’s what we play for, to be in contention. I can’t wait for Sunday.”
As a winner on both the US PGA Tour (Barracuda Championship in August last year) and the DP World Tour (formerly European Tour), Van Rooyen is in the lucrative position of being able to play tournaments on both tour.
“I think it’s fantastic. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do - play in mainland Europe and in the US. So I have the best of both.”
The next best SA player was Brandon Stone on four-under (68 72) in a tie for 17th. Justin Walters was one shot behind on three-under (69 72) in a share of 25th. George Coetzee was in a tie for 32nd on two-under (70 72).