Khan edges ahead in Portugal

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Simon Khan hit the front at the Portugal Masters on Friday thanks to second-round six-under-par 66.

Simon Khan hit the front at the Portugal Masters on Friday thanks to second-round six-under-par 66.

The Englishman, coming off his maiden Tour victory at BMW PGA Championship last year, has had a quiet season so far, with a fifth place finish at the Open De France a few months ago his only significant showing of note.

But an eight-birdie blitz at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura today saw the 39-year-old soar back into the big time, finishing on 13 under par for the tournament and grabbing a one-shot lead over Welshman Rhys Davies, who went round in 67, Chilean Felipe Aguilar, who equalled Khan’s 66, and first-round leader from South Africa, James Kingston, who added a 68 to his opening 64.

Khan was happy to be back in contention, and his aim is to enjoy the challenge at the top over the weekend.

“I started great – birdied the first two holes and that settled me down quickly,” he said.

“I hit it perfect. I think that you have to be positive around this course, and if the wind gets up a little bit, it can be a little bit more testing. You’ve just got to hit your wedges close and definitely get the putter going, that’s the key.

“It’s been a great two days. It’s not been a brilliant year overall, but I always feel good coming around this course and enjoy playing in Portugal. I’m delighted with the two days.

“I think the thing is to enjoy the position I’m in and enjoy the pressure – hopefully I’m leading – and carry that on into the weekend. We are only halfway through the tournament, so still lots of birdies to be made hopefully.”

Davies, meanwhile, lies in 51st place on the Race to Dubai and a strong showing this week will all but ensure him a place in the season-ending Dubai World Championship.

The 26-year-old Welshman carded seven birdies in his 67, and has earned himself a late start for Saturday. A good thing, too, as Wales plays France in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup at 9am.

“I think we have a great chance,” said Davies. “We have a really tough team to play against, there’s no doubt about it. I think the French are quite unpredictable.

“Thomas Levet was trying to tell me how dominant they were earlier, but I’m having none of it. I back my boys and I think they are great stuff.

“They have a really great team chemistry going it seems, and they are playing some really good rugby. We are fully confident on the weekend that we can turn them over tomorrow.”

Three more players lie a further shot behind those tied for second – Swedes Christian Nilsson (64), who birdied his last four holes, and Johan Edfors (67), and England’s David Dixon (64).

Former Walker Cup star Tom Lewis continued his impressive run of form since turning professional, shooting a 64 that included nine birdies in a 13-hole stretch to lie on ten under, three shots back, alongside Keith Horne (65), Thomas Bjorn (69) and Rafael Cabrera-Bello (65).

Bjorn is chasing his fourth win of the year.

“I’m pretty happy,” the 40-year-old told Sky Sports.

“I didn’t putt very well today which you have to do around here to get those low numbers, but I stuck with it all day and shot 69.

“I said yesterday you probably have to shoot four rounds in the 60s and find a low one in there so it’s a good start and leaves me in a good position for the weekend.”

World number six Martin Kaymer is on nine under, four back, after a 68 that featured a brilliant 50 foot birdie putt on the difficult seventh.

With the four players above him on the Race to Dubai all taking the week off, Kaymer has a great chance to make some gains in Portugal this week.

Further down the field, last week’s Madrid Masters winner Lee Slattery missed the cut by one shot, his four under total for the two opening rounds proving not quite good enough.

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