DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand shot a 6-under 66 Friday to take the second-round lead at the Dubai Desert Classic.
The 40-year-old former Thai army paratrooper made the most of calm and cool conditions to make six birdies. Thongchai reached 8 under and holds a one-shot lead on Lee Westwood (65) Stephen Dodd (69) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (67).
A double bogey at the last hole left first-round leader Rory McIlroy at 70, among a group of five players two shots behind Thongchai.
Tom Watson also shot 70 to trail by five shots. Colin Montgomerie (76) fell 11 strokes back.
Thongchai has four career wins on the European Tour, including the Indonesia Open and the Ballantine’s Championship in 2009.
He sees this tournament as a warmup for the Masters. In 2006, Thongchai missed the cut at Augusta after shooting 78 and 75. After overcoming a serious back injury sustained two years ago, he wants a second chance at the Masters.
“When I went to Augusta first time, I was not familiar with the place,” he said. “I didn’t know those greens. I three-putted seven times and had one four-putt. I would like to get that right.”
Holding the lead in Dubai would go a long way toward that goal.
“I have played well here in Dubai in the past and had a top-five finish here when Tiger Woods won in 2006,” Thongchai said. “I am driving the ball well, hitting my irons well and having worked hard on my putting. That’s what I need here and for the Masters.”