Even with two bogeys on his opening nine on Friday, Justin Harding was still able to ease into a two-stroke lead at the halfway mark of the DP World Tour’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club with a four-under-par 68.
Starting his round on the 10th, he immediately made a birdie, and then picked up another shot on the par-five 15th. But he pulled his tee-shot on the par-three 15th, and, despite hitting his second to six feet, he wasn’t able to save par there. He overshot the green on the 17th and wasn’t able to get up and down for par there. But a birdie on 18 got him going again, and he picked up another shot with birdie on the third.
It was on the sixth that he hit a drive 296 yards down the middle, and, with 183 to the pin, hit a perfect approach that landed 10 feet short of the hole and rolled its way in for eagle. “It was a bit of a bonus there on six,” he said. “It might have been the first time I’ve hit the fairway on that hole over the years. I had a good number in which allowed me to pitch it 10 or 15 short of the hole.”
That meant Harding had a two-shot edge over a grimly determined Tyrell Hatton, who, after opening with a bogey on the first, made four birdies in a row from the second to the fifth. He picked up three more strokes on the homeward nine, but wasn’t able to get any closer to Harding as he parred the last four holes.
“I made some putts,” said Harding of his round. “I’ve driven the ball well, although I got away with a few yesterday. But I’ve rolled the ball pretty well, and, for the most part, kept bogeys off the card by hitting fairways on the longer, tough par-fours which kind of demand it.’
Harding’s fellow South African Erik van Rooyen was in a share of third with Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti on eight-under-par after he carded a second round of five-under 67. Van Rooyen also started on the 10th, and four birdies on his opening nine quickly took him to the upper reaches of the leaderboard. Two more birdies after the turn got him to nine-under, but a dropped shot on the eighth slowed his progress.
Brandon Stone also had it going in the second round as he advanced to seven-under for the tournament through 13 holes. But he made three bogeys down the stretch as he remained at four-under-par in a share of 17th, five strokes behind Harding.
Justin Walters also had a level-par second round after getting it to three-under through 14 holes, but closed with three bogeys and a par to be on three-under in a share of 25th.
George Coetzee was on two-under after his second-round 72 had him in a share of 32nd, while Charl Schwartzel and Garrick Higgo were on one-under in a share of 39th after rounds of 69 and 73 respectively. Daniel van Tonder made a one-under 71 to be at level-par, while Dean Burmester made the cut on the number with a two-over 74 taking him to one-over for the tournament.
Thriston Lawrence, Richardt Sterne and Darren Fichardt missed the cut.