Karlsson beats demons to fight his way into the lead
Swedish star says he has learned not to try to outmuscle Fanling
Ryder Cup star Robert Karlsson knows how to win tournaments from the front - and he won't be looking over his shoulder at Mike Weir and company in the third round today.
Karlsson was faultless again in the second round at the Hong Kong Golf Club yesterday, shooting another six-under 64 to seize a four-stroke lead. But the signs were ominous as PGA Tour stars Weir and Trevor Immelman started to roll.
Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, and world number 20 Immelman moved to within five shots of Karlsson, as 2004 open champion Miguel Angel Jimenez also staked his claim at the UBS-sponsored tournament.
Weir found his touch on the greens in a six-under 64, while Immelman went even lower, matching KJ Choi's opening round of 62. Karlsson won in Wales and Germany in 2006 when he led after the second round and never looked back.
'My target was to play tomorrow and that is the only target I am focusing on,' said Karlsson, who had a nightmare tournament at Fanling in 2005 and gave the 2006 Open a miss.
'I understand what I need to do here. If you try to overpower this course you get into all sorts of trouble,' said Karlsson, who tried to outmuscle Fanling two years ago.
He conquered his demons in two pro-ams this week, with the help of his caddie.
'My caddie said 'if I'm going to come with you to that course again we are going to change something radically'. And we have because we had a tough time - I had a bit of a bad temper here then. I played both pro-ams to see if we could figure out how to get round a bit better.
'You have to be conservative in the way you select your club, but aggressive in the shot you hit,' Karlsson revealed. 'There are a lot of low scores out there and it is important to keep going. I have to try to be aggressive in the way I am playing and not focus on scores because that is the worst thing you can do. It's all up to me. So far I have done well.'
Weir and Immelman also got their rounds going, racing into contention alongside a host of players at seven under, comprising Bryan Saltus (US), Barry Hume (Scotland), Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand), Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland), Martin Erlandsson (Sweden), Simon Dyson (England) and Jarmo Sandelin (Sweden).
Weir shook off the rust of a three-week break and improved his round by five strokes. 'I knew I would have to shoot a pretty low score to get into the tournament,' the Canadian world number 34 said.
'I was frustrated yesterday because I didn't capitalise on chances I had. Every day I'm getting more used to the greens. I didn't take advantage of the [two] par fives today, but on the back nine I started to get the momentum going and I wished I had another nine holes to play.'
Immelman opened with a one-over 71 on Thursday and went straight to the range. 'I needed something special today,' said the South African. 'My scores have been awful in the past couple of weeks and I worked hard on the range yesterday. Something started feeling good and a lot of times you can take that on to the course the next day.'
Jimenez followed his first-round 65 with a 67 to sit four shots behind Karlsson. 'I always say if you are under par it is good. I just need a few more putts to drop over the weekend. I always enjoy this golf course. It is a great old-fashioned course where you have to be safe from the tee to allow you to have a chance at the green. You have to concentrate hard here and I like it,' said the Spaniard.
The two major casualties after the cut was made at one-under 139 were world number 38 Stuart Appleby (71-70) and 2006 champion Jose Manuel Lara (69-71).