KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia: Victor Perez put together another solid 5-under 65 during Friday’s second round to surge into the lead heading into the weekend at the Saudi International golf tournament.
Taking advantage of benign conditions in the morning at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, the 27-year-old Frenchman posted a 36-hole total of 10 under 130, making clutch putts along the way during a seven-birdie round, along with bogeys on the third and sixth.
First round co-leader Gavin Green, from Malaysia, had shared the lead with Perez until a three-putt bogey on the eighth — the penultimate hole of his round, having started on the 10th — left him a shot behind at 9 under, despite not missing a green in a 3-under-par round of 67.
Veteran Tour campaigner Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland, who was tied for the lead at the start of the day, finished one stroke further back on 8 under after shooting a 2-under 68 on the 7,010-yard, par-70 course on the scenic Red Sea coast.
“Obviously (I am) very pleased with the second round,” Perez said of his performance on Friday. “I think it was important to keep the hammer down after an obviously unexpected 65 in the wind yesterday.
"I think they were definitely the tougher conditions, and it’s one of those days where you hope to stay a couple under. I feel like I’ve been able to hole some key putts, and it also frees you up."
He added that it is important to take advantage of opportunities “and that’s what I’ve done really well so far.”
Green, who will tee off with with college teammate Perez in the last group out for Saturday’s third round, said: “I’m excited to be in the mix. I’ve been there a couple of times and just try to put myself in the position a couple more times and see what happens.
“I think I’ve done pretty well so far ... I’ve no complaints. I’ve been hitting it solid and putting the balls in the right position,” added Green, who is looking for his breakthrough win on the European Tour.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer, a former world number one, recorded the day’s best round, a six-under par 64 that helped him climb 76 places to tied 18th.
China’s Li Haotong, the runner-up to American Dustin Johnson in the inaugural staging of the Saudi International last year, and South African veteran Ernie Els just made the cut on 1-over.
Overnight co-leader Graeme McDowell could not take advantage of playing early in calm conditions, adding a 68 to his first round 64 to sit eight under, one ahead of Italian Renato Paratore who shot 65.
Northern Irishman McDowell said a slow-play warning after he gave an interview to one of the tournament broadcasters while walking down the fairway distracted him.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson was five back after shooting 68, while world number one Brooks Koepka sits back in 38th at one-under following his 69.
Saudi amateur Faisal Salhab was apparently overwhelmed by the experience of making his debut on such a big stage. He failed to play to his full potential and missed the cut, as did professional Othman Almulla and leading amateur Saud Alsharief, the other two members of the Saudi trio who competed in the blue-ribbon competition, which has a prize pot of $3.5 million.
Among those who missed the cut in the $3.5 million event were world number 12 Patrick Reed and England’s Lee Westwood, who recently won in Abu Dhabi.