JEDDAH: Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and American Cameron Young took advantage of the calmer afternoon conditions on Friday to top the leaderboard in first and second place at the midway point of the PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.
Ancer followed up his tournament low 63 on Thursday with a 4-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead going into the weekend at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. It was another near-perfect round for the 31-year-old with five birdies and only his first blemish of the tournament coming on 17.
After the round, Ancer said: “I’m very pleased with the way I’ve been rolling it and hitting it off the tee. Also my iron play has been pretty dang good, so I’m happy with my game.
“Having that bogey on 17 from a very scorable spot kind of burns a little bit and dropping the first shot of the tournament, but extremely happy with my play and the way my body feels, the way my swing feels. Yeah, extremely happy.”
Young, sitting one shot behind at 10-under par, is enjoying his first appearance at Royal Greens with two bogey-free rounds of 65, “It’s been great. I think it’s been a lot of fun in the wind. We have to hit a bunch of shots, and I’ve played really nicely.”
Sadom Kaewkanjana and Ratchanon Chantananuwat showed why they are two of Asia’s most exciting young prospects when they climbed up the internationally loaded leaderboard.
Kaewkanjana, 24, shot a four-under-par 66, making the most of the morning’s calm conditions, in contrast to the blustery weather he played in on Thursday afternoon.
He said: “I’m happy. Yesterday afternoon was so windy, but I played solid. Today I’m happy to play in the morning in the second group. So, everything’s good. My tee shot, my iron, all good. I hope to do more tomorrow and the last days the same as the first two days."
Compatriot Chantananuwat, known as “TK,” showed maturity beyond his years after the first two rounds in the Asian Tour’s flagship event. The 15-year-old amateur sits in a tie for sixth place, alongside Lucas Herbert, with rounds of 67 and 66. It was a tale of two halves for the young star on Friday after going out on the front nine in an impressive six-under-par before battling the wind to return a one-over-par back-nine.
“I have to split it in two halves because I played phenomenal on the first seven, had five birdies. I was really happy with that. I actually played even better yesterday actually, I just couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities as well as I did today.
“The last 11 holes I’m actually very happy with, as well, because it was an all-out scramble, and to shoot 1-over in these conditions playing like that, I easily could have shot 4-over. I made so many clutch par putts and the birdie putt on the last. Overall, very happy with my round because I’ve improved in lots of aspects compared to two months ago.”
Marc Leishman shot the low round of the day with a 6-under-par 66 to sit two shots back alongside Kaewkanjana and Louis Oosthuizen, who closed the round in style with an eagle on the 18th.
Defending champion Harold Varner III from the US also made a strong move, carding a 66 to jump up into a tie for 11th, six shots behind the leader.
The midway cut was made with those on level-par making it through in the last spots. Lee Westwood, Joaquin Niemann, and Jazz Janewattananond are all notable names who made it through into the weekend on the mark and will look to climb the leaderboard on moving day.