England's Poulter and Fisher on top at halfway point of Dubai Championship

ian poulter
Gety Images
Ian Poulter, who won on Sunday in Hong Kong, is going for two wins on two continents in two straight weeks.
By
Michael Casey
Associated Press

Series:

Ross Fisher led an English run up a star-studded leaderboard Friday at the Dubai World Championship, matching a course record 8-under 64 to reach tie Ian Poulter at 9-under 135 for the second-round lead.

England’s Lee Westwood tightened his grip on the No. 1-ranking by moving into third with a 5-under 69 at the European Tour’s season-ending, $7.5 million tournament in Dubai. He stood at 8 under, one shot ahead of European money leader and third-ranked Martin Kaymer of Germany, who could only overtake Westwood with a top-2 finish and the Englishman falling out of the top 27.

Kaymer, though, has all but ended the battle for the Order of Merit after he finished eight shots ahead of his only challenger, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who had another frustrating day to finish with a 1-over 73 and a tie for 42nd at 1 over.

Fisher, who was tied for seventh after the first round, surged into the lead with eight birdies on his way to his stellar 64, including a string of three in a row on the back nine and one on the 18th to close out the round.

“You know, just a very good day. I played pretty flawless golf,” Fisher said.

“Drove the ball lovely. Didn’t miss many fairways, and I don’t know how many greens I missed, if I did at all,” he continued. “Just feel a lot more comfortable this year on the greens. I feel like I’m reading them a lot better and I’ve got my line and pace very well.”

Poulter, who is coming off victory at last week’s UBS Hong Kong Open, said he felt that momentum carried into this week and showed up especially on the greens, where he made clutch birdie putts on the 15 and 17 -- the last one putting him into a tie for the lead.

“Yeah, very, very pleased. Obviously carrying some form from last week, driving the ball in the fairway an awful lot,” Poulter said. “I think I missed one fairway today by a couple of inches. That was on the last hole. So I’m giving myself plenty of chances and I’m not really making any mistakes and that’s obviously key to shooting a decent score.”

Poulter and his playing partner Westwood were neck and neck for most of the day, until Westwood chunked a wedge on the edge of the green at the 14th that led to a bogey and then missed a birdie putt on the next hole.

Westwood said he “played quite nicely” but admitted he was still showing signs of rust from the lengthy layoff because of a leg injury.

“Made a couple of mistakes out there, probably through not having played a lot recently,” he said, noting that he also flubbed a wedge on the fifth hole and “then chipped it to a couple of feet, a foot and a half, and missed it.”

“And then made a pig’s ear of the 14th after hitting a couple of nice shots,” he continued. “Got a bit unlucky with the second shot. I was aiming for the trap and it landed on the edge of the trap about a foot from it and broke right. And if it had gone in the bunker, it would have been an easy shot straight down the slope.”

The number of English golfers at the top of the leaderboard was not lost on Westwood, who wrote on Twitter: “English golf is flying! Hope it rubs off on the cricketers and footballers” and then praised his compatriots during a press conference.

“I think we have carried on over the first two days as we have been playing for two or three years,” he said. “The strength of English golf is incredible. When you look at the press the rest of sports in Britain get, they get mountains and mountains of type and pages and you tell me if they are performing as well as the golfers are. I don’t think so. I don’t think you’ll find another sport in the country that’s got as many world-class performers as England does at golf.”

In the Race to Dubai, Kaymer can claim the money title and a $1.5 million bonus by finishing higher than McDowell. McDowell can overtake the German by winning the tournament or ending up alone in second as long as Kaymer finishes no higher than a tie for third. If McDowell is tied for second, Kaymer could afford to finish as low as sixth.

The two-way race was expected to be tight between the big-hitting Kaymer and the more tactical McDowell.

But Kaymer effectively ended the contest almost before it began Thursday, surging to a five-shot lead over McDowell after shooting a 5-under 67. The lead became eight shots Friday, after Kaymer shot a 2-under 70 for a share of fourth place -- alongside Englishman Paul Casey and Thai golfer Thongchai Jaidee.

McDowell, who started strong Friday with three birdies on his first seven holes, began to unravel on the eighth where he shot the first of four bogeys.

“I’m feeling disappointed, you know, because I got off to the start I needed out there today,” McDowell said. “I was swinging the club good but middle of the eighth fairway with an 8-iron in my hands, completely missed the green way right and couldn’t get up and down, and did the same on 9 and made bogey. Any momentum that I had out there was quickly lost.”

McDowell refused to concede the money title to Kaymer, but said he would need a pair of 65s this weekend to have any chance of catching the German.