Thomas Aiken gave his chances of keeping his DP World Tour card a huge boost after making 13 birdies and two bogeys in 31 holes on Friday to grab a share of the lead at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The three-time DP World Tour winner came into the week 161st on the Race to Dubai Rankings, knowing a huge week was needed to retain his playing privileges.
And the 40-year-old rose to the challenge on Friday, giving himself a brilliant opportunity to secure the strong finish he requires over the weekend after following up a 69 with a 65 at Doha Golf Club.
Starting the day on one over par after only completing five holes of his first round on Thursday, the South African carded five birdies and one bogey in the morning to sign for an opening 69.
He then returned to the course to begin round two, adding eight birdies and one bogey in a stunning 65 to reach 10 under par.
Joining him on that mark overnight were Daniel Hillier and Santiago Tarrio, who must return to complete their second rounds on Saturday morning.
New Zealand’s Hillier made three birdies in the first 11 holes of his round before play was suspended due to fading light at 16:58 local time, and will have a birdie putt – and the chance to take the outright lead – when he resumes at the 12th early on Saturday.
Spaniard Tarrio, who made four birdies and no bogeys before having to leave the course, has six holes left to play.
Scots Robert MacIntyre and Ewen Ferguson – the defending champion – were a shot further back after nine holes of their second rounds, alongside Edoardo Molinari, who has seven holes remaining.
After opening his second round with back-to-back birdies, Aiken made another from 15 feet on the 5th before dropping a shot at the short 8th.
He then enjoyed a flawless back nine, birdieing the 10th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 18th to reach double figures.
“I played really solid today,” Aiken said. “We had 31 holes to play, so it was a long day. Early wake-up call.
“It’s a course that I like, I’ve always played well here in the past. Unfortunately with the rain yesterday it got a little wet, normally it plays firm and fast, which is what I like.
“Hopefully it dries up over the weekend and starts playing more like that. But I played really solid. It’s tough competing against these youngsters these days – they hit it so far.
“It’s getting a little tougher to play in your forties, but I still feel like I can win out here. I just need the right golf course.
“Unfortunately I haven’t been able to pick and choose my courses this year. I’ve played a lot of courses I would normally not play, but this is definitely one where I’ve always done well in the past. It’s proving evident, so hopefully the form continues over the next two rounds.”
– Report from DP World Tour website
Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images