Oliver adds to twist
Wilson and Haig blaze the field
n Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
Oliver Wilson? Anton Haig? Golf fans were left wondering who they are after the young guns occupied the top two places on the leaderboard of the US$2.44-million Johnnie Walker Classic at the Blue Canyon Country Club yesterday.
The pundits had predicted that the big guns would boom, but two days of highly competitive golf later it was the young who were calling the shots. If people were ready to cut the veterans out of the picture, Retief Goosen, the former US Open champion, reminded everyone that he would be a big factor over the next two days with a second straight 4-under-par 68.
Briton Wilson eagled on the 11th and 15th holes to end a second-round score of six-under par 66, one shot ahead of unfancied South African Haig, who registered a record-equalling low round of eight-under 64 for an overall nine-under 135.
Goosen is on 136 to seize third spot, which he shares with Australian James Nitties.
New Zealand's Richard Lee was alone in fifth on 137. Taiwan's Wang Ter-chang is on 138 to emerge as the best-placed Asian in the field, in joint sixth place along with Australian Adam Bland, Kim Felton and Richard Bland of England and Swede Peter Hanson.
Wilson looked as if he would cruise through a bogey-free round, but spoiled his scorecard after he found a twig on the 18th.
"There was a twig which I couldn't move. I made a mess of it all the way to the green until I got to six feet and managed to hole that, which was a nice way to finish,'' said the Georgia-based player, who turned to books, including the one by Bob Rotella, to get himself in the right frame of mind.
"I've just been working on a few things this week, trying to relax and enjoy myself. And it seems to work,'' said the 26-year-old, who used to fall prey to pressure. "I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself and my consistency has not been there since I've been on the Tour, which is a bit disappointing."
A stroke better than Haig and two ahead of world No 8 Goosen, Wilson will try to consolidate his lead to remain on track for his first European title
"I'm sure the cream always rise to the top. So these guys are going to be coming good down the stretch. Hopefully I can be there and they will be chasing me,'' said Wilson, who came close to winning a breakthrough title only to lose the play-off to Paul Casey in the Volvo China Open in 2006.
The 20-year-old Haig from Johannesburg stole the show from the likes of Ernie Els and Goosen to equal the low-round mark set by Australian Greg Norman at this course in 1994.
"I really have been working hard and it's about time it showed on the golf course,'' said Haig, who admitted he had received a few tips from the Big Easy.
"I've got to know him quite well these past couple of weeks. I can go up to him and ask a few things,'' said the 2006 Asian Tour rookie, who has one title under his belt - in the Pulai Springs Malaysian Masters last year.
Nitties, who was kept on the sidelines for several months in 2005 due to reactive arthritis, hit a five-under 67 in a bogey-free round yesterday.
"It was a solid round. I hit 16 greens and didn't hole any long putts. The course seems to suit me, I missed only two greens so it wasn't too successful out there,'' said Nitties.
The Kingdom's best hope, Thongchai Jaidee, kept the Thai flag flying, carding a four-under 68 for an aggregate of five-under 144 after finishing on a high with an eagle on the ninth. He was tied 11th with India's Jeev Milkha Singh.
"It was a good way to finish. It was perfect,'' said Thongchai, who is aiming for a top-10 finish by Sunday.
"I really want to catch up with the leaders, but it won't be easy. I need to hit the fairways and enjoy the game,'' added Thongchai, who is rejuvenated after a seven-day break at home in Lop Buri last week.
Thaworn Wiratchant and Thammanoon Srirot are the other Thais making the cut for the weekend, both at two-under 142 for joint-32nd place.
Main attractions Adam Scott and Els made the cut to the relief of local golf buffs. The two top-10 players, who were both over par on Thursday, now share 51st place with one-under 143 aggregates.
Overnight leader Brad Kennedy of Australia plummeted from cloud nine on Thursday, hitting a five-over 77 to finish two under and joint 32nd.