VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) — Danny Willett made six birdies in a tournament-record 29 on the front nine at the BMW PGA Championship on Friday, setting up a 4-under 68 that gave the Masters champion a three-way share of the second-round lead.
Australia’s Scott Hend eagled the last for a 69 to tie Willett and former U.S. PGA champion Y.E. Yang (69) for the lead on 10-under 134 in the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth.
Willett’s approach shots were so precise that his successful birdie putts on Nos. 3-9 were from no more than 15 feet. The Englishman, who was among the morning starters, reached the turn holding a five-shot lead on 12 under but bogeyed four holes in the back nine – including Nos. 15-17 – with birdies on the 14th and 18th holes.
“I played great most of the day and then chucked a couple of horrid shots in there,” said Willett, whose group was put on the clock for slow play.
“It was still not quite the back nine I was hoping for. But 10 under par, you’d have taken it at the beginning of the day.”
South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl (68) is a stroke off the lead. Former top-ranked players Luke Donald (72) and Martin Kaymer (70) are six shots back.
Playing his second event since winning at Augusta National, Willett hit form after making a 12-foot birdie putt on No.3. He tapped in for birdie on No. 4, almost holed his approach for eagle on No. 6 and sent his second shot on No. 8 to within three feet. Willett, the only player from the world’s top 20 in the field, then birdied No. 9 and was threatening to run away with the tournament, with conditions prime for low scoring for the second straight day.
In the end, he needed a birdie on No. 18 to be in a share of the lead going into the weekend.
”Golf, isn’t it?” Willett said. “Two tales – played good, then a couple of silly shots on the back nine … But 68, but you’ve got to look at the full number, 68 is a good score out there.”