Three-way tie at the top in Doha
Branden Grace shone late in the day to join George Coetzee and Bernd Wiesberger at the top of the Qatar Masters leaderboard.
The South African, who won the Alfred Dunhill Championship on home soil in December, added a second-round 68 to an opening 67 to sit on nine under par.
Grace made the most of the calm afternoon conditions at Doha Golf Club, making four birdies and a bogey, to share the lead with countryman Coetzee (67) and Austrian Wiesberger (66).
“I really thought somebody was going to push (ten under),” Grace told the European Tour.
“You saw the guys from this morning, they were six unders and five unders and seven unders, and nobody really pushed towards the end of the day.
“You still have to make it. I think the greens, it wasn’t really as quick as I thought they were going to be. They are still very good. They didn’t spike up at all, so it’s a big surprise nobody really pushed on.”
The morning belonged to Wiesberger and Coetzee, who traded blows throughout their rounds before ending in a tie for the clubhouse lead.
Wiesberger birdied five of his first seven holes, while Coetzee also made four gains on the outward nine.
Both also only had one blemish on their cards.
“I’m playing well. My swing is coming along slightly and I’m putting pretty nicely. I’ve just got to wait for my birdies and not force it and kind of play the golf course like I know it,” said Coetzee.
Wiesberger, fresh off a sixth place at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last week, said: “I feel comfortable. I haven’t really expected it going into those two weeks, especially because I played quite poorly last year.
“It gives me great confidence; if I keep on doing what I’m doing, I think I’ve worked on the right things the last couple of weeks and it shows.”
Korea’s Byeong-hun An, Scotland’s Marc Warren and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina all lie just one shot off the pace, while Spaniard Alejandro Canizares is among those two shots adrift.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia is just three shots back after a second successive 69.
Last week’s winner in Abu Dhabi, Gary Stal, was among those who missed the cut.
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