Jimenez, Poulter, Casey ready for charge
Some of The European Tour's most famous names were poised to mount an assault on the Ballantine's Championship over the weekend after an intriguing second round in Icheon, South Korea, on Friday.
Conditions at the Blackstone Golf Club layout could not have been more contrasting to the gales of Thursday as an almost flat calm and bright blue skies made conditions perfect for scoring at the picturesque hillside course.
Austria's world number 170 Bernd Wiesberger took full advantage to shoot a bogey-free seven-under 65, the best round of the week, and take a one-shot lead into the weekend ahead of former winner Marcus Fraser of Australia.
But looming just three behind Wiesberger on four-under par was seasoned campaigner and multiple European Tour winner Miguel Angel Jimenez.
"Well I feel nice, I feel calm and I feel peace and they (the leaders) don't feel very good because they can feel my breath on their necks," laughed Jimenez after a four-under par 68.
The Spaniard was runner-up here last year by one shot to Lee Westwood and feels the course suits his game.
"It looks like we are in the right mood, the golf course and myself. I like it very much and I hope we can make a good deal during the weekend," he added.
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Big name players Paul Casey (72) and Ian Poulter (67) are also well in the hunt at two-under par.
"Westy (Lee Westwood) made the cut on the number last year and went on to win. So I'm certainly not going to be sitting back," said Poulter. "I need to put birdies in the bag, really.
"I'm right in the mix. It's about going out there and making as many birdies as I can."
Other big names did not fare so well: the highest ranked player in the field, Australia's world number 12 Adam Scott plunged down the leaderboard and only just made the weekend after a 76 left him just inside the four-over par cut mark.
And Open Championship winner Darren Clarke could not undo the damage caused by his opening day 77 and missed the cut despite improving with a second-round level-par 72 which contained four birdies.
Fraser is bidding to become the first double winner of this championship as it celebrates its fifth anniversary -- he won in 2010 at Jeju Island.
And he announced his intentions with a superb six-under round of 66, a flawless card without a single five on it after birdying all four of Blackstone's par fives.
"Obviously yesterday was very windy, pretty tricky for everybody," said Fraser, the two-time European Tour winner who is in good form having finished sixth in the Volvo China Open last week.
"And then today was completely different. We basically had no wind for most of the day and then it kicked up a little bit over the last maybe five, six holes. But overall, I'm very happy and very pleased with the way it's going at the moment."
Asked what it was about the Ballantine's Championship that brought the best out of him Fraser joked: "It's obviously just the alcohol -- I can't really survive without it."
Oscar Floren, an unheralded Swede who languishes at 398 in the world rankings, disastrously double bogeyed his last hole on Thursday, but on Friday he enjoyed the best finish of the day.
At level par for his round and the tournament with five holes to play, he carded birdies at the 14th, 16th and 17th and capped it in tremendous style with an eagle three at the 18th to finish on five-under 139, two off the lead.
"The finish was great," he said. "I feel happier about my birdie on 17 than my eagle on 18, because I got a bottle of whisky for that," he joked.
Fellow Swede Alex Noren also finished in style, sinking birdies at the 14th, 15th and 18th holes to card a fine six-under 66 for a three-under total of 141, a total he shared with Graeme Storm of England who added a 69 to his first-round level-par 72.