Shenzhen (CHINA): China’s Wu Ashun boosted hopes of a home victory by producing a superb second round 65 (-7) to lead by two at the halfway stage of the RMB 20 million 25th Volvo China Open in Shenzhen.
Wu, the first Chinese player to win three times on the European Tour, carded eight birdies to move to 13-under-par at Genzon Golf Club and goes into the weekend with a two-shot advantage over Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen on 11-under with Spain’s Jorge Campillo one shot further adrift on ten-under.
Making it a day of double celebration for Chinese golf, teenager Kuang Yang became the second youngest player in European Tour history and the youngest in 25 years of the Volvo China Open to make the cut at just 14 years, six months and 12 days old.
For Wu, the best two rounds of the season have given him a great opportunity to become the first Chinese two-time winner of the Volvo China Open
“Apart from a dropped shot on the fifth, it was a very good round and I’m happy with eight birdies,” said the 33-year-old from Fujian. “I changed my swing at the end of last year and the beginning of the season was not so great but it’s getting much better now. I played a lot of good shots today and I just have to go out and keep doing the same over the weekend. I have my friends and family around me so I’m feeling very good.”
While Wu was enjoying the benefits of home comforts, Pulkkanen had appeared to be on course for a share of the half-way lead until a bogey on his last – the par five ninth – saw him home in 68 (-4).
“It was a really strong back nine for me today, I made a lot of birdie putts – my putter was hot,” said the Finn. “My driving was a little bit off today and I didn’t hit the fairways so I had to grind it out on the par fives but I’m happy with the day. I holed a lot of putts in the dark which was good, but on the last it was really dark.
“I saw that Wu Ashun is leading and I really wanted to play with him in the final group. There are going to be a lot of people so it’s going to be fun.”
Spain’s Campillo maintained the form that has seen him claim a victory and three top-three finishes in his last five events thanks to a second round 69 (-3)
“I made one birdie and one bogey on the par fives today so that wasn’t any good,” he said. “Obviously if you want to win the tournament you have to play them well. But It was a solid round after yesterday – the birdie on the last helped me but I I’d have been happier with one more.”
While the fight at the top of the leaderboard kept the large crowds enthralled, it was a par putt on the 18th that drew the biggest roar of the day as 14-year-old Shenzhen schoolboy Kuang Yang carved his own piece of golfing history. The Volvo China Junior Match Play Champion produced a superb up-and-down par save to make sure of his place at the weekend, much to the delight of the home support.
“I’m really happy – it’s amazing,” said a beaming Kuang, who was mobbed for selfies and autographs by young Chinese fans at the end of his second successive round of 71 (-1) and a two-round total of two-under.
“I was really nervous on 18 as it is a long putt for me but it went in and I ‘m just so happy – there are not enough words to describe the feeling. Although my putting and my game was better than yesterday, the score is the same. But I’m just very happy and want to thank my mum, my dad, my head teacher and my family for all the support.”
Of the 45 Chinese players who began the tournament, ten made it through to the weekend, which is also a new record for the Volvo China Open.
Also among the 69 players through to the weekend of China’s National Open Golf Championship are defending champion Alexander Bjork of Sweden, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and 2016 Volvo China Open Champion Li Haotong on -4. Li’s round of 73 (+1) could have been much worse as the 23-year-old dropped a remarkable six shots on two successive holes before bouncing back immediately with a run of five consecutive birdies.
With the cut made at two-under par, the most notable casualty was two-time winner Alex Levy of France who followed up his opening round 70 with a disappointing 75 to finish on one-over.
Volvo China Open Leading Scores After Two Rounds
131 (-13) Wu (Chn)
133 (-11) Pulkkanen (Fin)
134 (-10) Campillo (Esp)
135 (-9) Hebert (Fra)
136 (-8) Dubuisson (Fra), Langasque (Fra), Van Rooyen (RSA), Crocker (USA), Scrivener (Aus), Lee (Aus)