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Oosthuizen smashes Tiger’s mark, grabs big lead

DONGGUAN, China: Louis Oosthuizen smashed Tiger Woods’ record for the lowest halfway score in World Golf Championships history yesterday as he opened up a big five-stroke lead at China’s $7 million WGC-HSBC Champions.
Oosthuizen’s nine-under-par 63, helped by a run of eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, left him 16 under through 36 holes, beating Woods’ 15-under score at the 2000 Bridgestone Invitational and 2006 Cadillac championship.
His second round, which followed Thursday’s 65, put clear distance between the South African and nearest rivals Adam Scott and Ernie Els, who shared second spot on 11-under-par 133.
Oosthuizen’s spell-binding performance at southern China’s par-72 Mission Hills also evoked memories of his five-stroke halfway lead at the 2010 British Open, when he successfully closed out over the weekend.
“Scoreboard-wise, it’s probably the same,” he said. “Looking at the leaderboard, there’s so many great players up there. It’s far from over. It was probably the same at the Open.
“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.” Four-time Major-winner Els, who sprained his ankle playing tennis two weeks ago, turned at seven under par and then added two more birdies for a 63, matching his fellow South African Oosthuizen. Scott finished on 68.
“You know what they say — beware the injured golfer,” smiled Els.
Phil Mickelson, the event’s only double winner, was also set for a share of second place until he found greenside rocks on the 18th for double-bogey and dropped down to tied sixth with Dustin Johnson.
Jason Dufner, Mickelson and Johnson’s Ryder Cup teammate, shot 66 to share fourth spot with Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who had 68.
Scott, who had shared the first-round lead with Oosthuizen, played a sumptuous front nine studded with four birdies but he stumbled on his return with three bogeys and another three birdies.
“I played OK today — I got off to a good start but on the back nine I missed a few greens and I had to scramble, and it’s tough when it’s fast around the greens,” said Scott.
“I don’t know about tomorrow but as long as I catch (Oosthuizen) by the end of Sunday, that’s the most important thing,” he added.
The Australian escaped from a bunker on the third hole for his first birdie of the day, and he picked up further shots on four and five to take a two-shot lead early in the round.
A cry of “Adam, we love you!” from the sidelines spurred him on, but it was Oosthuizen who then took charge with his eagle on the par-five seventh, cueing up a birdie blitz around the turn.
Oosthuizen birdied the par-three eighth, escaped out of a bunker to within a foot on nine, drained a 20-footer on 10 and then chipped to an unmissable distance on 11.
Two more birdies on 15 and 16 completed a pleasing day’s work for the South African, who was greeted at the clubhouse by his wife and two daughters, who are traveling with him.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell played with his right hand strapped after shutting it in his hotel door, and will undergo tests on Saturday before he decides whether to continue.