VIRGINIA WATER, England (AFP) - Masters champion Danny Willett, Korea’s YE Yang and Scott Hend from Australia were tied for the lead after two rounds of the European PGA Championship at Wentworth on Friday.
Yang, who beat Tiger Woods in the 2009 US PGA Championship, was the last to join the group at the top of the leaderboard when he got up and down from a bunker on the par-five 18th to finish on 10-under par 134 for the 36 holes.
Hend eagled the same hole to take his place alongside Willett and Yang after turning in a 69 to add to a 65 on Thursday which saw him share the first round lead with Yang and Joost Luiten.
But England’s Willett had earlier threatened to blow the tournament open with some brilliant golf on the front nine – he was five in front at one stage, before fading slightly coming home.
Willett dominated the early proceedings going to the turn in 29 – a tournament record – before coming home 10 shots worse, in 39.
He had bogeys on the 10th, 15th, 16th and 17th before pulling a shot back at the par-five last but was not complaining about a round that has left him right in contention for the European Tour’s flagship event.
Willett said: “I played great most of the day and then chucked a couple of horrid golf shots in there, and it was nice to make birdie at the last, two really good golf shots and I composed myself quite nicely.
“You could have just chucked it and finished really poorly, but to make birdie was good. It shows a little bit of mental strength. But it was still not quite the back nine we were hoping for, but 10-under par, you’d have taken it at the beginning of the day.”
The leading trio are followed by South African Jaco van Zyl who is on nine-under, after a 68, but there is a three-shot gap back to Spain’s Jorge Campillo.
Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, a European Ryder Cup hopeful, jumped nearly 30 places up the leaderboard with a 68 and he insists the leaders are still in sight.
He said: “I’m five shots off the lead. A little further than what I would like, but I’m satisfied with the way I’ve played, just being five off the lead. I’m in a good position.”
Luke Donald, winner in 2011 and 2012, could not make any headway. He shot a level-par 72 for a four-under halfway score to be level with Germany’s Martin Kaymer and American Jamie Lovemark, with Lee Westwood a further shot back.
Defending champion Byeong Hun An from Korea recorded another 72 to stay at level par and will remain for the weekend but past winners Miguel Angel Jimenez, Matteo Manasero and Scott Drummond are going home.
Joint first round leader Luiten is alongside Cabrera Bello in a clutch of players on five-under after a 74 but when he was playing the early parts of his round the course was full of English cheers.
Willett was off half an hour before Luiten and made his presence felt with a birdie at the par-four third, to go to seven-under, before making another one at the par-five fourth which took him to eight-under par.
He had saved par at the first after going over the back of the green with his second shot and at the second he raced his first putt six feet past the hole before knocking in the return.
Willett’s early pyrotechnics were in stark contrast to playing partner Victor Dubuisson, who struggled to an opening nine of 37 and slipped down the field after his opening 69 on Thursday.