HONG KONG – Ian Poulter shot a spectacular 60 on Friday to take a one-shot lead over Anthony Kang through two rounds at the Hong Kong Open.
The Englishman’s performance eclipsed by one stroke the Fanling course record held by countryman Simon Yeats – but with the preferred-lie ruling in effect, Poulter’s mark will not officially stand as a record.
Poulter moved to 13-under for the tournament and into sole possession of the lead on the final hole, sinking a close-range birdie putt after playing partner Rory McIlroy double-bogeyed his last hole to slip back to 11 under.
Poulter had 10 birdies in a round that he called one of the best of his career.
“I would rank it pretty high to be honest,” he said. “I hit 61 in Italy in 2002 I think, so it’s my lowest round of golf to date, so I would have to rate it up there. I had a lot of chances today and I could have holed a couple more but it’s a good round of golf.”
Despite his impressive showing, the European Ryder Cup player regretted several missed chances to go even lower.
“Yeah, mixed emotions,” he said. “It’s one of those golf courses that if you get off to a decent start you feel as if you can shoot a low number. Five under on the front nine is a great score. I had five birdies in a row from the seventh and then as soon as that happened I felt there were plenty of chances.
“There are a lot of short irons to finish; at the par-5 13 it was close. I hit a great putt at 17. I really wouldn’t have had it back again, but a foot from the hole it stayed with the grain, and then I birdied the last for 60. So, happy but a bit disappointed.”
Poulter is one shot ahead of Kang, an American, with Simon Dyson and McIlroy in a tie for third, another shot back.
McIlroy appeared set to go into the third round with at least a share of the top spot as he led Poulter by a shot on the 18th.
But the 21-year-old Northern Irishman recorded a double-bogey at the last hole, putting his second shot in the lake in front of the green after botching his attempt out of the fairway bunker.
“It was a good matchup,” Poulter said of his tussle with his Ryder Cup teammate. “I knew he was going to play well today and I knew I was going to have to play well and hit a low score to stay in touch.
“I’m sure he’s a little disappointed to finish like that, but Rory’s playing well and it’s going to be an exciting weekend.”
Poulter’s round was the lowest on another day of low scores played out in calm conditions, with Kang firing a 61 to pull himself into contention.
First-round leader Mark Brown slipped back down the leaderboard as a result of his 1-under par round, which left him 9 under for the tournament. Defending champion Gregory Bourdy is tied for 15th, a shot further back.
Seventeen-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero is tied for fifth at 10-under after a round of 63 left him even with four others, including U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
John Daly shot a 66 to leave him 5 under after 36 holes. He easily made the cut and will play this weekend.