Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and England’s Gary Boyd share the lead at the halfway point of the China Open after shooting a pair of 67s in the second round for 10-under-par totals, with South African Branden Grace just one shot behind.
Boyd is yet to win an event in three years on the European Tour, but has come second on two occasions. Gonnet’s best finish, on the other hand, was a third in his debut season in 2007 in Sweden so it will be something of a breakthrough victory if either of these players can kick on from here.
It is by no means a forgone conclusion however, as two-time European Tour winner South African Branden Grace is hot on their heels – one shot off the pace – and defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts just two shots behind in third on 9-under.
Despite having never finished better than third in his career on the European Tour, he has been in pretty good form this year with a 12th place finish in Abu Dhabi, a sixth in India and a fifth in Qatar.
“I played very well again today, even off the tee which is really good for me,” he said.
“It’s good to be in the lead and the game is in good shape so I have a very good chance to win but I have to try and not think about it.
“My confidence levels are high because I have been playing well for the last two months. I had a lot of fun out there today and that is very important for me on the course, to try and have fun and enjoy it because the last two years have been very tough for me.
Grace made a name for himself at the beginning of this year with back-to-back wins in South Africa after coming through European Tour Q-school. He sunk three birdies and an eagle two at the seventh to card his second straight 67.
“There are opportunities out there,” he said. “It wasn’t easy because you still had to hit the shots and get it going.
“The most important thing I did today was to play the difficult holes for me sensibly. I didn’t take any chances on the holes that could cause me real trouble and then I managed to birdie the ones where I can make chances.”