Dubai: Jeff Winther is targeting a maiden European Tour win after carding a second consecutive round of 67 to reach eight under par at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The Dane, who finished third at Education City Golf Club last season, made four birdies on the back nine to move two strokes clear of a group of five players on six under par, before play was suspended due to darkness on Friday evening.
Jamie Donaldson, who represented Europe at The 2014 Ryder Cup, made the most of the benign conditions in the morning as he carded a three under par round of 68 to take a share of second place, while the afternoon starters battled gusts of up to 40 kilometres an hour.
Joining the Welshman on six under par are former Qatar Masters champion Darren Fichardt of South Africa, American Kurt Kitayama, Kalle Samooja of Finland and England’s Jack Senior.
Seven competitors share seventh place on five under par, including 2016 Ryder Cup player Thomas Pieters and Rolex Series winner Brandon Stone, with four groups to complete their second round from 7.30am on Saturday.
Jeff Winther: “I love coming back here. I have good memories from last year even though two guys knocked me out. I really like this course — it’s great to play and the conditions are fantastic. I haven’t played for three weeks, but coming out here is fantastic.
“The greens are very nice. I don’t want to jinx myself but I think they are easy to putt on. They are very true. The condition is the same as last year, it’s beautiful.”
Darren Fichardt: “This morning we had to come back and play one hole, there was a small breeze. We sat in the clubhouse and waited for our 8:15 tee time. Midway through our front nine it started blowing a bit, then on the back nine it was blowing properly — it was tricky.
“I was quite embarrassed on 17 when I de-greened it. That’s a good indication of how tricky it is. It’s tough to get the pace right because the wind is gusting. You’ll set your putt off on a good line or a good pace and the wind can carry it or stop it. I had two three-whacks on the back nine. I walked off and said to my wife it wasn’t like I was trying to do that. The wind just gusts and it’s difficult to judge the wind.”
Kurt Kitayama: “It was playing really tough, the wind was really up — so it felt good though, getting under par.
“Being in Las Vegas and seeing a lot of desert golf out there, there’s a similar feel here. I think that helps a lot. Usually this time of year it’s pretty windy, so I get to see quite a bit of wind — a lot of times it’s on my day off though. It’s pretty comparable.
“(On the first) I chunked my approach and flew it into the bunker. I hit a good bunker shot and holed it, it was nice to get off that way — you’re looking at bogey really, so to come out with a birdie was a good start.”
-8 Jeff Winther (Denmark) 67 67
-6 Jamie Donaldson (Wales) 68 68
Darren Fichardt (South Africa) 68 68
Kurt Kitayama (USA) 67 69
Kalle Samooja (Finland) 65 71
Jack Senior (England) 68 68
-5 Nino Bertasio (Italy) 65 72
Joachim B Hansen (Denmark) 66 71
Garrick Higgo (South Africa) 66 71
Chris Paisley (England) 67 70
Matthieu Pavon (France) 68 69
Thomas Pieters (Belgium) 68 69
Brandon Stone (South Africa) 69 68
Fabrizio Zanotti (Paraguay) 67 70