Matthew Fitzpatrick will take a one shot lead into the weekend at the WGC-HSBC Champions but he will have Rory McIlroy breathing down his neck at Sheshan International Golf Club.
Both men carded rounds of 67 on day two in Shanghai, with Fitzpatrick moving to 11 under and leading the way by one from his 2016 Ryder Cup team-mate.
Defending champion Xander Schauffele, South Korean Sungjae Im and Australian Adam Scott were then at nine under, a shot clear of local hero Li Haotong and Frenchman Victor Perez.
Fitzpatrick is looking to extend an impressive record of having won in every season since he graduated from the Qualifying School in 2014.
He has four second places on the 2019 Race to Dubai and a victory on Sunday would be his first in a World Golf Championships event.
‘The back nine, I putted fantastic, as good as I’ve putted all year,’ he said. ‘The rough is tough. The greens are firm, they are slopy as well. Today was definitely difficult.’
McIlroy has finished second seven times since his last European Tour victory in 2016 and was happy not to be playing catch up heading into the weekend.
‘Delighted with the first two rounds,’ he said. ‘To put myself right in contention going into the weekend is something that I wanted to do.’
A late bogey left Louis Oosthuizen four back. The top-ranked South African was four under through 11 holes on Friday but came home in pars with a drop at the penultimate hole.
He remains SA’s best in China this week with Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Neil Schietekat slipping down after 72s. Bezuidenhout, winner at Valderamma, is back in 26th place with Schietekat six places further down alongside Jbe Kruger.