Bernd Wiesberger holds a one stroke lead at the halfway mark of the Ballantine’s Championship after a flawless seven under par second round 65, but the Austrian will be pursued by a strong chasing pack over the weekend in Korea.
Wiesberger was one of several players who took full advantage of the benign morning conditions at Blackstone Golf Club, near Seoul, as he posted seven birdies with no blemishes on his card.
The 26 year old, who had two runner-up finishes on The European Tour last year, chipped in from just off the green on the 18th to move to seven under par 137, one shot clear of 2010 Ballantine’s Championship winner Marcus Fraser who signed for a 67.
Sweden’s Oscar Floren finished with back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th holes before an eagle on the last for a 67 to sit a further shot back, with last year’s Ballantine’s Championship runner-up Miguel Angel Jiménez (68) three shots off the pace on four under par in a share of fourth place alongside Englishman Anthony Wall (67) and Felipe Aguilar of Chile (69).
Ryder Cup pair Paul Casey and Ian Poulter are also well positioned to make a move over the weekend after rounds of 72 and 67. They are both two under par for the championship, but Wiesberger is the man to catch after masterful second round performance.
“I was happy with my round yesterday, and today I really got to the stage where it kind of worked,” he said. “A couple of long putts dropped, and the chip‑in on the last was nice, as well, to finish the round off. Today couldn't really do anything wrong really. It felt like everything was going in the right direction.”
Wiesberger recently moved to Asia, relocating from Vienna to Indonesia, and he appeared very much at home on the challenging Blackstone course as he chases a maiden European Tour title.
But another man equally as comfortable in Korea is Fraser, who continued his affinity with the Ballantine’s Championship, as he looks to build on the form he showed in finishing tied sixth in last week’s Volvo China Open.
Fraser, who won the title two years ago when the tournament was played on Jeju Island, began on the tenth tee and profited from a prolific patch around his turn, carding four consecutive birdies on the 17th,18th, first and second holes.
He dropped shots on the third and seventh holes, with another birdie sandwiched in-between on the fifth, but the 33 year old is poised for another title challenge over the weekend.
“I’m very happy with the first two days,” he said. “Obviously yesterday was very windy and it was pretty tricky for everybody. I thought it was pretty fair over the course of the day.
“Today was completely different. We basically had no wind for most of the day and then it sort of kicked up a little bit over the last maybe five, six holes. But overall, I’m very happy and very pleased with the way it's going at the moment.
“The Ballantine’s Championship is obviously one of our premiere events now on The European Tour, and Ballantine's have been such a great sponsor and product. We have a great venue this year, the same course as last year, and I think the brand, Ballantine's, sits very well with the exclusive club, and it's just a great week and somewhere I love coming back to.”
Fraser almost eagled the par five last hole, chipping to within a foot from a greenside bunker to make birdie, but Floren went one better with a superb three meaning he will go into the weekend just two strokes behind leader Wiesberger.
“On 18, I guess I got a bit lucky,” said Floren. “My ball hit the path, and it was the perfect four‑iron. I hit a really great shot to about eight feet and knocked it in. So it was a good way to finish.”
Jiménez, the 18-time European Tour winner, carded a bogey-free 68 and is confident he can put pressure on his rivals at the top of the leaderboard over the weekend.
“There are 36 holes more to go and I feel good and they don't because they feel my breathe on their neck,” he joked.
“I'm feeling very good on the golf course,” he added. “The only thing I need to improve is my sand wedge and my lob‑wedge, I didn't put them close enough.
“But the rest of the game is pretty good. I had nice shots from the tee, nice shots to the greens. And my putting is decent, too. That's everything you need.”
English pair Casey and Poulter are also in contention, five shots off the pace, following rounds of 72 and 67 respectively, but first round leader Victor Dubuisson slipped back to one under par with a 75.
Australian Adam Scott, the World Number 12, also endured a frustrating day, carding five bogeys in a round of 76 to lie ten shots off the pace in a share of 57th position. Scott claimed his only birdie of the day on the final hole and he will be hoping to produce a similar surging performance as Englishman Lee Westwood 12 months ago, who made the weekend on the cut-line before going on to win the title.
The Korean challenge is led by Ji-ho Jung, who carded a 71 for a share of seventh place on three under par, while World Number 32 Bae Sang-moon fired a 68 to move to one under par and inside the top 20.
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