ABU DHABI: The familiar name of Martin Kaymer — a three-time champion of the tournament — was back on top of the leaderboard Friday (Saturday in Manila) at the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Championship, a second successive round of six-under par 66 giving the German a one-shot lead at the halfway stage.
The 32-year-old, also a two-time major champion, made two bogeys during his round, but compensated with an eagle and six birdies.
At 12-under par 132, he was one ahead of Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello, who shot a 66 himself that included three birdies in his final three holes.
Overnight leader Henrik Stenson of Sweden completed a battling round of one-under par 71 to slip to tied sixth at nine-under par, with three young stars — England’s Tommy Fleetwood (67), Ireland’s Paul Dunne (66) and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68) — leapfrogging him to tied third place at 10-under par.
The two US PGA Tour players in the tournament — defending champion Rickie Fowler and world No3 Dustin Johnson — put up a much-improved performance of four-under par 68 each to make it to the weekend. The cut came at two-under par 142.
While Kaymer has had much success at the National course of Abu Dhabi Golf Club, he has also faced the ignominy of losing a 10-shot lead in 13 holes on Sunday here a couple of years ago.
“I felt like I played a little bit better than yesterday. It was a bit more difficult today with the wind, especially the first nine. I struck the ball a little bit better and I made a few long putts today,” said the German, who is yet to add to his winning tally after the 2014 US Open.
“I don’t try to push at all. I just try to enjoy playing my favourite golf course. Once in a while, when a putt drops in, you catch momentum and you can make another three or four birdies coming in, like it happened today.
“I have all kind of experience on this golf course — very good ones, and a couple poor ones. So I learned from the US Open, and it worked out for me very well that I approach every day as a new day and don’t compare to what happened the last day or on Thursday. That’s the same way I will try to approach tomorrow.”
Cabrera-Bello had a superb 2016, except for the fact that he did not win any tournament.
The world No28’s last win was down the road in the 2012 Dubai Desert Classic, and he was delighted to get into contention again.
“I obviously wish it would come sooner than later, but I’m in no hurry. I know it will come,” said the Spaniard, who qualified for the Ryder Cup last year.
“I wouldn’t give myself an A-plus for last year, but it has been the first season of my career when I achieved every single thing except for winning. I can’t really put too much blame on myself for that because sometimes you just need to wait for it to happen.
“I did give myself lots of chances and I’m sure if I continue on that line, it will happen.”
Among the major names missing the weekend action were reigning Masters champion Danny Willett, reigning DP World Tour Championship winner Matthew Fitzpatrick and 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke.