In-form Peter Hanson's surprise surge into contention in the European Tour's Race To Dubai could see him make a last-minute decision to add the UBS Hong Kong Open to his schedule in a bid to pip the world number one, Rory McIlroy.
Swede Hanson made a huge jump up the table to second place after winning the US$7 million BMW Masters in Shanghai last week, and after an impressive start at the WGC-HSBC Champions yesterday, he said he was ready to make some late changes to his plans if his form holds until Sunday.
Hanson, 35, shot a six-under 66 at the Olazabal course at Mission Hills, with seven birdies and one bogey, for a share of second place behind Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott.
McIlroy has controversially skipped this tournament, and Hanson's Shanghai win has propelled him to just over €800,000 (HK$10 million) behind the Northern Irishman with a handful of events remaining. A win in Dongguan would see the Swede go top, but then McIlroy would have the US$6 million Barclays Singapore Open and the US$2 million Hong Kong Open to regain the lead. Hanson is currently planning to play in neither.
"I would definitely consider [Singapore and Hong Kong]. It's a tough decision today because I have other obligations in America, so I'll have to speak to my agent and other people and see if we can work around it," Hanson said.
"I spoke to [European Tour chief] George O'Grady and he's trying to hold spots for me. I told him I was going to wait until the end of this week to decide. Hopefully, I can be up there Sunday and we'll see how big a gap it is."
Hanson, who made a superb late surge to make the 2010 Ryder Cup team, knows McIlroy will be hard to beat.
"I'm a big fan of Hong Kong," Hanson said. "I had a couple of close calls there and Dubai has been nice to me over the past few years.
"The way Rory is playing, it's going to be very hard to catch him, no matter what. He's got Singapore, Hong Kong that he loves, and Dubai is a course that sets up very well for him.
"[But] I'd be tempted. I hadn't really thought about this until last week. It was a massive jump in the race so when you see your name second in the list, there's no lack of motivation."
Scott, from Australia, finished birdie, birdie, eagle on his last three holes (7, 8, and 9) to grab a share of the lead.
He said: "It was a solid day that all of a sudden turned into a really good day. But I hit a lot of good shots, and they ended up finishing close on the last couple of holes and I took advantage of that. With five par 5s, it kind of sets up well for my game, and the plan is to take advantage of the 5s and hopefully hang in there with the leaders all week."
Oosthuizen, from South Africa, had seven birdies for his 65 on a sunny, windless day that seemed perfect for low scoring.
He said: "I made five birdies on the par 5s and that got the round going, then I had two more. I'm glad to have a bogey-free round. I'm always happy with that."
Phil Mickelson also eagled the ninth, his last, with a 20-foot putt to join Masters champion Bubba Watson, Hanson and the Irishman Shane Lowry in the group on six under.
China's Wu Ashun is well in contention at four under, along with South Korea's Jang Ik-jae. Liang Wenchong had a 72 but the other two Chinese golfers in the field, Zhang Xin-jun and Hu Mu, were three and seven over respectively.
Wu said: "It was a very good round. I'm feeling good, putting well and mentally strong. I'm very happy to play here in front of the home fans and my family."