Alexander Levy takes command after French wave of inspiration
The 23-year-old's 10-under 62 tears open field apart
Inspired by the exploits of countryman and friend Victor Dubuisson in the past few months, Alexander Levy decided he wanted some of the action.
The 23-year-old Frenchman tore the Volvo China Open field apart on Friday with an “unbelievable” 10-under 62, giving him a four-shot lead after the second round at the Genzon Golf Club.
With American drawcard Jason Dufner just surviving the cut, world No 3 Henrik Stenson still battling a virus and Ian Poulter imploding, it was left to Levy to provide the star turn at the 20th anniversary of the national open.
“I played unbelievably and the first time I have played like that. It was a great round,” said Levy, who is ranked 282 in the world.
While Dubuisson, who finished third in the China Open last year, has given this year’s tournament a miss after a sensational run of form, Levy said his compatriot was not far from his thoughts.
“The French players are all very close and Victor’s performances over the past few months is helping all the French players and inspiring them to try to do the same.
“It is mainly through golf that we have a relationship, but we are friends. What he has done has been amazing and it has really had an effect on all the French players, so hopefully I can try to emulate that.”
Dubuisson finished second to Australian Jason Day in the WGC Accenture Matchplay Championship in Arizona in February, having won the Turkish Airlines Open and then placed third in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last November.
“I am very happy to be here,” said Levy. “This is my first time in China and I feel great to be playing so well in what is a really big event for me.
“This is the lowest score of my career. I shot 63 at Kingsbarns during the Dunhill Links in Scotland last year, but this course is a lot tougher and I am only starting to realise how good that score is.
“The past few months I have played some good golf, but I was not patient enough,” said Levy, who led after the third round of the BMW International Open in Munich last June, before fading to finish third – his best result on the European Tour.
Chasing Levy at 10 under is Spaniard Adrian Otaegu (68-66), followed by fellow Spaniard Alvaro Quiros (67-68) at nine under and another Frenchman, Rafael Jacquelin, alone in fourth at eight under.
US PGA champion Dufner (73-71) made it to the weekend by the skin of his teeth at even par, while Poulter (69-72) flirted with disaster when taking an incorrect drop on the 13th hole and signing for a triple-bogey eight. He finished at one under after being six under at one stage.
“A complete and utter brain fart,” Poulter said when asked about his blunder. “I have just made a mistake. We make them and I guess that was a fun one.
“I took two club lengths as opposed to one and it’s a two-shot penalty, which turned a bad six into a really bad eight, so not the best of holes.
“I guess I need to get the rules book back out and start chewing it.”
Dufner said: “I’m just not playing well enough … 73, 71 just doesn’t get it done unless you are playing the US Open.”
Five of the 32 Chinese players made the cut – led by Li Hao-tong at two under, followed by Wu Ashun and Wu Kang-chun (one under), and Liang Wenchong and Zheng Ou-yang at even par.
Teen sensation Guan Tianlang was among the casualties after finishing at three over.
“I’m a little disappointed. I feel I did a good job, my swing is just not there,” said the 15-year-old.
“I think my mind is good. Maybe my technique is not quite right. I’m still changing my swing and I’ll go back to work on it.”
Guan will play in Guangzhou next week in the second leg of the new PGA Tour of China, which has 10 US$200,000 events around the country.
World No 3 Henrik Stenson (71-70), meanwhile, is at three under and will have to produce something magical to make up 11 shots on Levy.
Stenson is still struggling to recover from a stomach bug.
“I actually felt a little better last night, but then kind of took a step back this morning. I’m just feeling very weak and tired, so it was quite tough out there.
“I made six birdies and missed a few good opportunities to make more. But then I threw a silly double in there and a few bogeys as well, so I need to cut that out, although it is tough and tiring when you feel the way I have been feeling this week.”