Form Horses Overtaken at Halfway Stage

With the sun back out at the Volvo China Open, a welcome sight for the players in the middle of Friday afternoon was the occasional complete lack of movement in the flags around the course. This meant that there would be scoring opportunities for those going out later, and although it blew a little harder on and off, it was nowhere near as challenging as the opening afternoon.

Having dropped shots at the start of his back nine, overnight leader Robert-Jan Derksen came back well with three birdies in his last six holes to move within one of Brett Rumford, last week's winner in Korea. Derksen was pleased with his recovery saying, "I was happy, I stayed patient, and in the end I got my rewards. Early on I didn’t hole that many putts, and I had thought it might be one of those days. But I knew I was hitting good putts, and if I started finding the right lines I knew they’d start dropping."

Next to make a move was 23 year-old Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat who hit a hat-trick of birdies from the 5th and another two at 11 and 15 join Rumford in the lead. Having won the Malaysian Open just a few weeks ago, like Rumford he is very much a man in form. However, as the afternoon wore on, it was 33 year-old Fin, Mikko Ilonen who put together an incredible round of 63, easily the best of the week so far, to take a three stroke lead going into the final two rounds.

The theme at the Volvo China Open this year is very much the move of China's bright young stars onto the world stage and the star of the show so far is 16 year-old amateur Dou Ze-cheng who followed his opening 70 with a solid round of par to make the cut. A delighted Dou said afterwards, "It feels great. I got a little nervous but I think it will get better next time. Now I want to enjoy my golf, enjoy the next two days, and enjoy playing in front of the crowds." Dou seems very level-headed for one so young, but there is ambition there too and so it is only right that when asked about his ultimate golfing ambition, he replied "To win as many Majors as I can!"

As play finished for the day, three Chinese players had made the cut though sadly Ye Wo-cheng was not one of them. He will have learnt a lot from the week and gained a great deal of respect. Afterwards, he said, "Golf is a hard game to play at this level of competition and on these courses, but I feel I will soon be ready for it. I’m looking forward to the next time I can play out here."

Notable absentees at the weekend will include popular Spaniard Álvaro Quirós, Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley, and former Volvo China Open winner Marcus Fraser. Two other former Volvo China Open winners fared better with Damien McGrane and Paul Casey both in the hunt, and if Branden Grace can continue his back-9 form over the weekend, he could also be a serious threat. However, they will all have to work hard if they are to catch the halfway leader, Mikko Ilonen who said, "I gave myself a lot of opportunities and on the back nine I felt really good with my putter."

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