Australia’s Marcus Fraser remained on course for a wire-to-wire victory at the weather-affected Ballantine’s Championship after securing a one shot advantage over defending champion Thongchai Jaidee, Gareth Maybin and Tano Goya heading into tomorrow’s third and final round.
Fraser dropped his first shot of the week in a patient two-under-par second-round 70 on a bright but windy third day at Pinx Golf Club to top the leaderboard at nine-under-par with one round remaining after first-day fog delays forced officials to cut the tournament to 54 holes.
Belfast’s Maybin posted a second consecutive 68, which also included his only blemish in 36 holes, to join overnight clubhouse leaders Thongchai and Goya, who had battled blustery conditions to set the second-round pace at eight-under-par yesterday.
And with the equally testing winds also restricting scoring today, Thongchai’s superb second-round 67 and Goya’s hard-fought round of 70 kept the pair firmly in the mix a shot clear of Ernie Els, Ted Oh and Brett Rumford.
“I am very happy,” said 31-year-old Fraser, who carded a bogey-free 65 first round.
“I played really well, I just didn’t make a couple of putts through the start of the round, but I made a couple good birdies towards the end and it felt like I played just as well as I did on Thursday, but it was just very tough conditions.
“It was just so gusty. It was windy most of the day but a couple of times it dropped and came back and it was just hard to judge shots coming into the green.”
Maybin, who has missed just one cut this season with two top-10 finishes, started his round with back-to-back birdies before moving into contention with another run of consecutive gains to start his back nine.
“Tee to green I have been pretty solid and when I have missed a green my short game has been pretty good and all in all, I am looking forward to tomorrow,” said the 29-year-old, who posted his best career finish with a second place at the South African Open last year.
“It obviously all depends on the weather again, and hopefully it will be the same for everybody. I have just got to keep doing what I’m doing and if it’s good enough, it’s good enough.
“I’ve been up there before, so I’ll know what to expect. There are a lot of big names at the top of the leaderboard, but I will just stick to my game plan and keep doing what I’m doing.”
Rumford (70) was another who played virtually two rounds yesterday, while in-form Els also improved to seven under par with a frustrating 69 alongside leading Korean Oh, who posted a 70.
“I left a lot of shots out there,” said world number seven Els. “I didn’t particularly putt that well. I had one three putt and a lot of birdie misses. I’m playing nicely, so I’ve got half a chance.”
Oliver Fisher (70) lost his card at the end of last season but has posted four consecutive top 10-finishes and the 21-year-old joined Singapore’s Mardan Mamat (70) at six-under-par.
Henrik Stenson (70), Johan Edfors (71), Rick Kulacz (71) and in-form rookie Rhys Davies (71) rounded out the top 10 a shot further off the pace alongside Robert-Jan Derksen (71), who lost in last year’s play-off to Thongchai.
Trophee Hassan II Davies, who finished joint runner-up last week in China, had briefly topped the leaderboard at nine-under-par, but shipped a disastrous triple-bogey.