Defending champion Antoine Rozner plays the last eight holes in six under to claim the halfway lead at the AVIV Dubai Championship; Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Waring just three behind going into the weekend.
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 12/11/21 3:13pm
Tommy Fleetwood remained in the hunt for his first win in two years as Antoine Rozner raced into the halfway lead at the AVIV Dubai Championship.
Defending champion Rozner birdied six of the last eight holes to card an impressive 64, keeping a bogey off his card for the second day running and edging one clear of Joachim B Hansen, with Fleetwood and Paul Waring three shots off the lead.
Fleetwood recovered from a poor start to make five birdies on the back nine and return back-to-back rounds of 66, one better than compatriot Waring, while Ryder Cup team-mate Bernd Wiesberger was also six under for the day and heads into the weekend just four off the pace.
Rozner has struggled for form since his outstanding victory in Qatar in March, his last top-10 finish on the European Tour, but the Frenchman has been inspired by his return to the Fire Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, cruising to 15 under par.
“I think I was playing really well, I just kept putting myself in good positions hole after hole and a few putts dropped on the back nine which was great,” said Rozner, who is projected to move to 15th in the Race to Dubai if he can hold onto his lead over the weekend.
“It was definitely one of my best ball-striking rounds out here between this year and last year. My long game was perfect, I was striping it shot after shot. I missed one green on 17 and that was the only hole I put myself in trouble, but I got away with it with a good par.
“I’m not the only one who’s playing well so you’ve got to keep grinding for the next two days. Stay aggressive is the mindset, you have be aggressive over and over. I did that really well last year, obviously I can use that experience from last year and that’s helping me.”
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Overnight leader Hansen also completed the first half of the tournament without a blemish on his card as he added a composed 67 to his opening 63 to move to 14 under alongside Francesco Laporta, who fired an eight-birdie 64.
Fleetwood was one over for the day after six holes before birdies at the seventh and ninth reignited his bid for a first victory since the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November 2019, and he birdied 11, 12 and 13 for the second straight day before picking up further shots at the 16th and 18th.
His excellent finish got him to 12 under alongside Waring, whose 67 was a fine effort considering he lost a ball at the long 13th and ran up a double-bogey seven.
“I started quite nicely, but I didn’t really get into the round too well after that,” said Waring, whose only win on Tour remains the Nordea Masters over three years ago. “I missed a couple of chances, I think I turned two under par and then had a good little run from there.
“Then I lost a ball down 13, made seven at the par five which put me on the back foot. You’re going to make the odd bad swing and sometimes they come at the wrong time, I missed it in a place you can’t miss it. I was being quite aggressive off that tee anyways, trying to take a tight left line and just pulled it a touch.
“I knew I was swinging it well anyway, it was just one bad swing at the wrong time. Into the next, a par three I hit a great little five iron in there to eight foot so I felt like I was right back on the birdie train again.
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“So if I can get the driver going – I’ve been swinging it a little bit harder which has been good, a bit more confidence in my back again this week, which is ideal. That gives me the confidence to go at a few and get into that wedge distance which is my strength.”
Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, buoyed by his tie for 12th at the Portugal Masters, is nicely placed on nine under after rounds of 68 and 67, with Paul Casey, Bob MacIntyre and Martin Kaymer one stroke further behind.