Hong Kong - There
was high drama at the Hong Kong Open on Friday as upstart Aaron Rai
smashed the course record with a blistering nine-under-par 61, and
Masters champion Patrick Reed birdied six of the final seven to avoid
England's Matt Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood and Spaniard Alvaro
Quiros all found their form in calmer weather conditions to keep Rai
within sight as they head into the weekend.
Beginning his round at the 11th hole, Rai, the world No 201, made
four consecutive birdies from 12 to 15, and another five in total as he
stayed bogey-free for the tournament.
The overnight co-leader opened up a four-stroke advantage at the top
of the board over South Korea's Park Hyo-won, who also broke the
previous course record with his 62.
Rai, who like Park is seeking his first win on the European Tour,
improved on the record of 63 at the par-70 Fanling first shot by Chris
Wood in 2012 and equalled by Lucas Bjerregaard in 2015, David Howell in
2016 and Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2017.
Fleetwood, the world number nine, made a charge with his 65 to lie
eight shots off the pace, but afterwards he was full of praise for the
"It's great golf that... very, very impressive stuff. That's all I've
got to say," said Fleetwood, who narrowly missed out winning his second
Race to Dubai this month.
"I wish I could have watched it."
Rai thanked his local caddie, calling him a "great character" and saying he helped keep him calm.
Going into the weekend, a composed Rai said his tactics would be to stick "as close to the original game plan as possible".
"We were lucky today with the conditions," added Rai.
"We didn't have much wind and starting out pretty early, it was quiet
for the first nine holes so it kind of feels like you're playing a
round at home, which was nice."
Fitzpatrick carded 62 to
keep up the pressure on the unheralded leaders, although was
disappointed to come up short with a final putt that would have seen him
equal Rai's new course record.
The USA's Micah Laurn Shin carded 67 to end seven off the lead.
Masters champion Reed had ended day one at five over par and looked
likely to not make the cut on the second, after bogeying the eighth and
But coming back in, the American pulled out a gutsy performance,
shooting six birdies over the final seven holes, drawing a huge cheer
from the crowd after sinking the eighteenth to card 65.
Nine points off the lead and with 36 holes to go, Reed said he was not done yet.
"You can make birdies here in bunches," he said.
"I never feel like I'm ever out of a golf tournament."
Sergio Garcia, the Ryder Cup's all-time top points-scorer, carded 67
to lie 11 off the pace after a round sullied by bogeys on his final two
"We'll need a really good weekend," the Spaniard said.
"I don't know if I'm building (into the tournament) or not. I'm tired, I'm looking forward to resting."
Leading scores after the second round of the Honma Hong Kong Open at Fanling on Friday (par 70):
126 - Aaron Rai (ENG) 65-61
130 - Park Hyo-won (KOR) 68-62
132 - Matt Fitzpatrick (ENG) 70-62
133 - Micah Lauren Shin (USA) 66-67
134 - Alvaro Quiros (ESP) 68-66, Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 69-65, Adilson
da Silva (BRA) 70-64, Jason Scrivener (AUS) 65-69, Scott Hend (AUS)
68-66, Jake Higginbottom (AUS) 69-65
135 - David Lipsky (USA) 69-66, Jeunghun Wang (KOR) 68-67, Ashley Chesters (ENG) 68-67
136 - Liu Yanwei (CHI) 68-68, Jack Singh Brar (ENG) 66-70, Victor
Perez (FRA) 71-65, Danthai Boonma (THA) 67-69, Kim Koivu (FIN) 69-67,
Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 68-68, Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL) 68-68, Marcus
Kinhult (SWE) 72-64