Grace fights off jetlag to move into Dubai contention

Branden Grace made seven birdies and a bogey on Friday in the second round of the European tour’s season finale, the DP World Tour Championship being played on the Earth Course on the Jumeirah Golf Estates in the United Arab Emirates.

His six-under-par total took him to six-under for the tournament and into a share of fifth place behind the halfway leader, Patrick Reed of the United States, who is also the leader in the race to Dubai and will clinch the European Tour number one spot if he wins the tournament.

“I think getting over the jetlag helped,” laughed Grace after his round. “Coming from Mexico was a nine-hour difference. I didn’t play at all well yesterday, but the putter kept me in it. Today, I freed up a little bit, hit the ball better, gave myself some chances and made a few putts as well. Finishing on a tough course like this with three birdies in my last four holes was the key.”

He made four birdies on the opening nine, on two, five, seven and nine, but a dropped shot on the sixth meant he turned in three under. He kept the scorecard clean after that, and made those three gains from the 15th.

With the course set up tough, Grace is beginning to find conditions to his liking. “The way it was set up yesterday, I was wondering what the guys were thinking,” he said. “It has been tough. They’ve really tucked the pins over the last couple of days. Yesterday and today almost felt like Sunday pin-placings out there. But the course is soft so you can still go at some of them.”

An opening 70 had left Reed three off the pace but a sensational 64 on day two saw him move two clear at the top as he looks to become the first American to top the Race to Dubai rankings.

“Anytime you shoot eight under par you’re always happy,” said Reed, who heads into the weekend two clear of England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick.

“I feel like today I got off to a little better start than I did yesterday and the putter was working a little bit.

“There’s a lot of golf left. I feel like the biggest thing is yesterday just seemed like I kept burning edges, and a couple iron shots and scoring clubs that I didn’t hit as close as I needed to and wanted to.

“I was able to warm up a little bit last night on the range after the round and tighten things up, and today I gave myself a lot of chances. I hit it close on a lot of holes and therefore I saw lines a little better and I was able to free up the putter and make some putts.

“Anytime you have the lead, a share of the lead, whatever it ends up being at the end of the day, you’re always going to be pleased. You put yourself in position going into the weekend to have a shot at it, and that’s all you can ask for is giving yourself a chance to win a golf tournament.”

Fitzpatrick mixed seven birdies and three bogeys in a round of 68, with his compatriots Laurie Canter (66) and Tyrrell Hatton (68) sharing third on seven-under.

Shaun Norris was the next-best South African in the 65-man field, after his second-round 69 moved him to three-under and a share of 14th. Also on three-under was Erik van Rooyen who signed for a one-over 73.

South African Open champion Christiaan Bezuidenhout carded a second successive one-under 71 to move to a share of 21st, while Dean Burmester came in with a superb five-under 67 to climb to one-under for the tournament in a share of 26th. George Coetzee was also one-under at halfway after his second-round of level-par.

Brandon Stone was on level-par at halfway after his 71, and Justin Harding climbed to two-over for the tournament with his 69. Garrick Higgo slumped to a five-over 77 and fell to a share of 48th on three-over, while Wilco Nienaber was nine shots better in the second round with his two-under 70. He sits in a share of 58th on five-over.

With reporting from The European Tour

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