Molinari holds lead ahead of Westy

Lee Westwood remained in second place behind Francesco Molinari after the second round of the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Lee Westwood remained in second place by one shot after the second round of the WGC-HSBC Champions, but he is looking every bit a World No 1 as he pursues Francesco Molinari.

The Italian overnight leader added a two-under 70 to his opening 65 to hold onto his lead by a shot when the pursuing Westwood failed to birdie the closing par-five 18th and had to be happy with a 70 of his own.

At 8-under for the tournament he trails Molinari by a shot and in turn leads by a shot from the group tied for third that includes Ernie Els, courtesy of a 65, South African compatriot, Jaco Van Zyl (66) and Scot Richie Ramsay (68).

Luke Donald is a further shot back in 6th place at 7-under and fellow Brit Ross Fisher shares seventh with Korean upstart Noh Seung-yul.

But significantly those bidding to unseat Westwood from his week-old throne at the top of the rankings have made no threatening moves.

Former world No 1 and now No 2 Tiger Woods is tied with World No 4 Phil Mickelson for sixth at 4-under after both had up and down days with their putters and World No 3 Martin Kaymer is a shot further back at 3-under

Molinari looked set to pull away from the chasing pack with a larger lead after enjoying a blemish-free round in a first eight-hole stretch marked with birdies on the second, fourth and seventh holes.

A bogey on the par-four ninth followed by another dropped shot on the 12th hole set him back momentarily before he brightened up his card again with another birdie on the 14th hole.

“I played really well until the ninth hole. Then I started missing shots, but you know, I think today was a little bit trickier because the wind was a bit stronger,” Molinari said.

“I probably didn’t hit the ball as well as I did yesterday. I had to work a little bit harder to save some pars but all in all, I’m happy with my nine under total.”

Westwood continued to underline his new-found stature as the world’s best golfer with another assured performance.

The Englishman carded three birdies on holes eight, 14th and 16th but had his otherwise perfect card spoilt by a lone bogey on the par-four 11th.

“I played quite nicely today. I thought it was a little bit trickier as there was a bit more breeze and the flags were a little more tucked away. Obviously you could still score well but I thought it was a little bit harder,” Westwood said

With his troubled calf injury slowly recovering, Westwood is now confident of maintaining his charge for the WGC-HSBC Champions title this week.

“It feels better today than it did yesterday, so I’m delighted about that. I felt pretty strong out there, and hopefully it’s improving all the time,” said Westwood.

Meanwhile Els who started the day in equal 35th after an opening 72, posted the day’s lowest score of 65 to charge up the leaderboard into contention with the Shanghai showpiece heading into the final weekend rounds.

“Obviously I played really well compared to yesterday, but I thought the greens were a little firmer yesterday. Today I felt they were a little bit softer. But I’ve been more aggressive today and I’ve been hitting the ball well,” said the South African.

Fellow South African Jaco Van Zyl, who is little known outside of the Sunshine Tour, joined Els on seven under, the 31-year-old coming home in 29 to card a second-round 66.

Tiger Woods, meanwhile, experienced a day of mixed fortunes, notably with his no-longer lethal putter as five bogeys cancelled out five birdies.

The former world number one therefore stands in a group of nine players at four under that also includes Phil Mickelson. Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington and Australian Richard Green, who hit a hole in one on the par-three fourth.