5 Things: Oosthuizen on track at HSBC Champions
DONGGUAN, China – Louis Oosthuizen is halfway to his 10th career victory, holding a five-shot lead in the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills Golf Club.
Oosthuizen, 30, continued to master the Olazabal Course, recording a 9-under 63 Friday after an opening 65. The South African sits at 16-under 128. Australian Adam Scott (68) and South African Ernie Els (63) are tied at 11-under 133.
“Looking at the leaderboard, there are so many great players up there. Like I said, it’s far from over,” Oosthuizen said, drawing parallels to his standing here and his 36-hole lead en route to the Claret Jug in the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews. “With this tournament, I’m in a great position to win it, but it’s not even crossed my mind at the moment. There’s still a lot of golf to be played, and I need to put myself in a great position going down the back nine on Sunday.”
With only one bogey this week – Thursday on the par-3 second hole – Oosthuizen has not posted a 5 on his scorecard and is 11 under in two trips around the five par 5s.
In four of his last five victories – the 2012 Maybank Malaysian Open, 2012 Africa Open, 2010 Open Championship and the 2010 Andalucia Open – Oosthuizen held the 36-hole lead and went on to victory.
If Oosthuizen, who stands fifth in the European Tour’s “Race to Dubai” standings, can win here, he would narrow the gap with leader Rory McIlroy entering events at Singapore and Hong Kong before the finale in Dubai.
A victory here would be Oosthuizen’s first World Golf Championship title and his biggest triumph since the 2010 Open Championship.
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Ouch: Leaving his room earlier on Friday, Graeme McDowell got his hand caught in his hotel-room door, bruising the knuckles on his right hand and leaving some doubt about whether the 2010 U.S. Open champion would play the weekend in China.
“It’s not broken,” said Conor Ridge, McDowell’s agent. “We had it checked out, and it’s badly bruised.”
McDowell received ice treatment before shooting a second-round 75, which leaves him tied for 56th at 146.
McDowell has three events left this season: Dubai, Australian Masters and Tigers Woods’ World Challenge.
“Knowing him,” Ridge said of McDowell, “it would have to be pretty bad for him not to play.”
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That’s no foot fault: Ernie Els was playing tennis with his daughter Samantha two weeks ago and twisted his left ankle when he stepped on a tennis ball. After withdrawing from the PGA Grand Slam, Els made the trip to China unsure of how he would do.
After shooting a bogey-free 63 in the second round, all doubts on Els’ status have been put to rest as the “Big Easy” moved into contention to win his first WGC title.
“I obviously had a good start and all of that,” Els said. “But I wish I can always play like that.”
Els flirted with shooting 59 after a front-nine 29 that included seven birdies, but he couldn’t keep it going on the back nine and settled for 34.
“That number was crossing my mind,” Els said of a 59. “I just didn’t quite make the putts coming in.”
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The joys of membership: Sweden’s Peter Hanson has been living in Orlando, Fla., for almost four years but has not been a full member of the PGA Tour. That will change in 2013 when he will takes up membership on the U.S. tour.
Playing most of the year under the category of special temporary member that afforded unlimited sponsor exemptions, Hanson has earned $1,511,221.30 in 11 events, easily enough to gain his card in 2013.
“That was one of my biggest goals of the year, to make enough money to join,” said Hanson, who is tied for 12th in the HSBC Champions after a 66-71 start. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Hanson had hoped to earn his card last year under the same route but fell just short. Now, he will have to juggle membership on the European and PGA tours.
“My ideal scenario would be to play starting in Phoenix all the way to Colonial, at least,” Hanson said. “I’m confirmed to the Volvo Champions; that will be my first one in 2013 and will see if I can squeeze in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.”
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Nowhere to go but up: Japan’s Kenichi Kuboya sits at the bottom of the leaderboard through the second round of the HSBC Champions, but the Japan Open champion showed a lot of heart Friday.
Starting on the back nine, Kuboya shot a horrific 13-over 49 that included a quintuple-bogey 10 on the par-5 15th hole, an 8 on the par-4 10th hole and four bogeys.
Rather than give up, Kuboya shot 2-under 34 on his second nine, with three birdies and one bogey.
Unfortunately for Kuboya, who is 78th at 16-over 160 for the championship and 32 shots behind Oosthuizen, his goals would appear to be limited for Saturday’s third round. But his first target is to try and catch a South African whose place is more within reach: Jbe Kruger is five shots ahead, at 11-over 155.