The Qatar Masters appeared set for another thrilling finish as a trio of golfers shared the lead after the second round on Thursday.
South Africans George Coetzee and Branden Grace along with Austrian Bernd Wiesberger were on top on nine-under par 135 for a one-shot advantage over Argentinian Emiliano Grillo, South Korean An Byeong-hun and Scot Marc Warren.
Coetzee, winner of the Joburg Open late last year, shot a steady 67 in another day of calm conditions at the Doha Golf Club, while Wiesberger carded a 66 before Grace caught up with them with a 68.
Wiesberger, who started on the 10th hole, began in style, picking up five shots over his first seven holes, including four straight gains.
His only blemish of the day came at the par four seventh, but he compensated by ending with a birdie four for an impressive 66, a round of six under.
Coetzee too fared better on his outward nine, making four gains, but also had one blemish, his second bogey at the fifth hole this week.
â€œIâ€™m playing well. My swing is coming along slightly and Iâ€™m putting pretty nicely,â€ said Coetzee.â€œ Iâ€™ve just got to wait for my birdies and not force it and kind of play the golf course like I know it.â€
Wiesberger, who shared sixth place at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship last week, said: â€œI feel comfortable. I havenâ€™t really expected it going into those two weeks, especially because I played quite poorly last year.
â€œIt gives me great confidence; if I keep on doing what Iâ€™m doing, I think Iâ€™ve worked on the right things the last couple of weeks and it shows.â€
Grace, who has won five times on the European Tour, including this yearâ€™s Alfred Dunhill championship, dropped a shot on the 14th hole but otherwise played steadily to put himself in contention.
â€œIt was good, nice to start the way I did, 3â€‘under for the first nine holes were good and I really wanted to push on the back nine,â€ Said Grace.
â€œI got a little unlucky with a couple of putts, missed a 3â€‘footer on the 10th and I didn’t really make anything after that. Still close to the top and things like that, so still in a good position for the weekend.â€
He was asked why South Africans seem to do well in Qatar.
â€œI think it’s just we’ve got the good weather over the Christmas period of time. We take a break and then we start grinding, and I think when we head into The Desert Swing we are pretty much prepared,â€ said Grace.
â€œI think that’s shown over the last couple years and it’s shown again this week. The guys are really performing. We are playing well and let’s see if we can get a South African winner.â€
Former winner Darren Fichardt of South Africa, Australian Richard Green and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares were tied in third place with 137, while overnight leader Oliver Fisher was on 138 with 11 others, including defending champion Sergio Garcia who won last year in a playoff with Finn Mikko Ilonen.
Ilonen, however, missed the cut this time along with Frenchman Gary Stal, the winner in Abu Dhabi last week.