Eight-birdie Sten­son thirsts for win in the desert

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

HEN­RIK STEN­SON rat­tled in eight birdies for a sec­on­dround 64 to lead Dubai’s $8-mil­lion DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship yes­ter­day, putting the Swede firmly in con­trol of a five-man tus­sle to top the 2013 Euro­pean money list.

The world No 3 has yet to notch up a vic­tory on the Euro­pean cir­cuit this year but won the US PGA Tour’s end-of-sea­son FedExCup in Septem­ber and seems poised for another bumper pay­day fol­low­ing a near-flaw­less per­for­mance on the Greg Nor­man- de­signed Earth course.

“I hit a lot of fair­ways, a lot of greens, gave my­self op­por­tu­ni­ties and rolled a cou­ple of nice putts,” said Sten­son.

“It could be a bit bet­ter, but there’s no point be­ing greedy ei­ther. Ev­ery­one is go­ing to miss a few out there. The greens are tricky to read, a lot of grain and they’re quick. I’m de­lighted with the first two days.”

Sten­son is 12 un­der par on 132, one shot ahead of firstround leader Ale­jan­dro Canizares. The Spa­niard saved par on the 18th with a 10-foot putt af­ter find­ing the wa­ter, while Sten­son shrugged off a missed ea­gle op­por­tu­nity on the 14th as he picked up four shots on the fi­nal seven holes.

“(I’m) com­ing off a lit­tle bit un­happy with my per­for­mance on the 14th, it would have felt pretty bad for the mo­men­tum to drop one straight af­ter that – it would have felt like two dropped shots so that putt was cru­cial,” said Sten­son.

The 37-year-old bo­geyed the 18th dur­ing his first round but with the tee moved for­ward on day two he lofted a 120-foot wedge to the edge of the green that rolled back to within a yard of the pin, al­low­ing him to sink a fi­nal birdie.

He went into the Euro­pean sea­son fi­nale lead­ing the Race to Dubai, for­merly known as the Euro­pean Or­der of Merit.

Sten­son, Eng­land’s Justin Rose and North­ern Ire­land’s Graeme McDow­ell would all top the money list should they pre­vail over 72 holes.

English­man Ian Poul­ter and Wales’s Jamie Don­ald­son would do like­wise if they win this tour­na­ment and Sten­son fin­ishes third or lower.

The chas­ing quar­tet are strug­gling to keep up with the nerve­less Swede – he did not drop a shot and would net a $1mil­lion bonus if he proves to be Europe’s top player of 2013.

Rose (67) and Poul­ter (68) are among a group of play­ers tied for fifth on 137, or seven un­der, while McDow­ell (68) and Don­ald­son (72) are on 140.

Sten­son said he was par­tic­u­larly wary of Rose and Poul­ter. “They’re chas­ing me as good as they can and I know nei­ther one of the guys is go­ing to back down,” said Sten­son. “I nor­mally keep track of what’s hap­pen­ing. I’m too cu­ri­ous not to.”

Poul­ter, 37, rued bo­geys on the 10th and 12th, but in­sisted he was still in con­tention.

“As long as I’m in strik­ing dis­tance come Sun­day af­ter­noon, we might see some fire­works,” the world no 15 added.

Canizares blamed a lack of fo­cus for find­ing the wa­ter on the 18th, but said he was play­ing well enough to be a sur­prise win­ner, with his soli­tary tour vic­tory com­ing seven years ago.

“I’m due one I think – I just have to be pa­tient... and not get too ob­sessed with the win,” said the 30-year-old, who has not dropped a shot since the fifth hole of the first round.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Rory McIl­roy, the out­go­ing mon­eylist win­ner, could steal a late march on the leader­board af­ter scor­ing a steady sec­ond-round 67 to put him on 138.

“It’ll take a cou­ple of 65s or around there to have a chance,” said the world No 6. “The way I’m hit­ting the ball I’m giv­ing my­self plenty of birdie chances. I feel there is a low (score) in there.” – Reuters

GALLO IM­AGES

DESERT DUELLER: Hen­rik Sten­son of Swe­den leapt into the sec­ond-round lead in the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship in Dubai yes­ter­day, but claimed the greens would prove tricky for many com­peti­tors.

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