Victor Perez overtakes Green & McDowell to lead the Saudi International heading into round three
Frenchman holds slender one-shot lead following back-to-back rounds of 65
King Abdullah Economic City, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – 31st January: Victor Perez of France seized a one-shot lead over Malaysian Gavin Green to take top spot at the halfway point in the second Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.
The Frenchman set the pace on a calm but overcast morning at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, carding his second five-under 65 in two days, allowing him to post a ten-under par, two-shot solo lead ahead of the day’s afternoon pairings.
Green featured in the first of those, opening with a birdie on his way to a four-under 66, battling a strengthening afternoon wind. Northern Ireland’s McDowell, chasing his first European Tour win since 2014, carried on his first-round momentum to finish two-under for the day (68), two off the lead at eight-under-par.
“I’m obviously very pleased with the second round,” said 27-year-old leader, Perez, who captured his first European Tour at last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. “I was able to play really well yesterday, and obviously coming out this morning, this is the round where you have to try to take as much advantage as you can and put some points on the board, and obviously I’m in a very good position for tomorrow.”
Malaysia’s Green, who sits on nine-under-par after two rounds, will partner Perez, his former college teammate, in the final group on Saturday. Having completed a 67 in round two, he said: “I think I've done pretty well so far. I've got no complaints. I've been hitting it solid and putting the balls in the right position. It's a bit of a hit-and-miss, because the greens are so tricky out here, especially with the wind.
“I'm excited just to be in the mix. I've been there a couple times and just try to put myself in the position a couple more times and see what happens.”
Green’s tournament best 64 from the opening day was equalled by a resurgent Martin Kaymer, who went bogey free to propel himself from three-over to three-under, in what was the day’s stand-out round.
“I feel really close with my game because I have a plan now,” said the German. “I changed a few things over the winter with my driving because I was never happy with the way I drove the ball. It was straight, but it was never long enough to compete, really, on the big events. I'm very happy with the way I drive it right now.”
Looking back on his round, McDowell said: “It was tough to get going. A couple of birdies on the front were very pleasing and it was nice to hang in there coming in. It was really just a little bit colder with the putter today, and that was really the only difference between a great round yesterday and an average enough one today. It's all to play for 36 holes left and I feel like I'm playing well enough to compete and get the job done.”
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, defending champion Dustin Johnson (both -5), Phil Mickelson and Open winner Shane Lowry (both -4) remain in contention. US powerhouse Brooks Koepka will be hoping for a fast start at one-under par.
American world number 12 Patrick Reed (+3) and Lee Westwood (+3) were two of only a handful of big names to miss the cut.
After shooting the lowest round ever by a Saudi player in a European Tour event (+3), amateur Saud Alsharif – said: “I am really pleased with today. I did my best out there and can now look forward to the rest of my season on the MENA (Middle East North Africa) Golf Tour. I’ve learnt so much this week, already especially on decision making. That’s the key at this level and all I really need to improve on.”
With the business end of the golf getting underway tomorrow, the tournament is expecting its busiest day yet. The event’s Entertainment Zone will be packed with interactive, family fun experiences, plus a delicious selection of food trucks and pop-ups over its remaining two days – ensuring any visit guarantees ‘The Ultimate Day Out’.
Flamenco favourites the Gipsy Kings and Puerto Rican music sensation Luis Fonsi – the man behind global megahit ‘Despacito’ – will take to the stage following on from Saturday’s play.
Tickets for the Saudi International’s final two days remain on sale, priced at 50 SAR per day. Exclusive concert tickets start at 75 SAR.
For more tournament information, visit www.saudiinternational.com
Saudi International second round leaderboard:
-10 V Perez, -9 G Green, -8 G McDowell, -7, R Paratore, -6 J Janewattananond, -6 R Fisher