SHANGHAI (AP) — Lucas Bjerregaard is learning how to deal with the pressure of playing from the front, and closing in on a maiden European Tour title, too.
The Dane heads into the weekend with a three-stroke lead at the BMW Masters after carding a 6-under 66 in Friday’s second round.
Bjerregaard trailed overnight leader Sergio Garcia for much of the day before surging into the lead with three birdies in his last four holes to match his opening-round score. He’s now shot below 70 in 12 of his last 13 rounds since mid-October, going a combined 47 under.
Garcia, meanwhile, ran into trouble on his back nine on a cold, blustery day at Lake Malaren Golf Club. He bogeyed No. 12 and hit into the water on No. 13 for a double-bogey, falling four strokes back.
The Spaniard recovered to shoot a 71 and tie for second place at 9 under with Thongchai Jaidee (68).
Bjerregaard has been in top form this autumn, posting four top-10 finishes on the European Tour and falling just short of capturing his first title at the Hong Kong Open three weeks ago. Playing in the final group, the 24-year-old Dane led Justin Rose by a stroke down the stretch before a double-bogey gave victory to the Englishman.
Still, it was a far better finish than the last time Bjerregaard played in the final group on a Sunday at the Alfred Dunhill Championship last December — he collapsed with a 17-over 89 in the final round.
“It was nice in Hong Kong to prove to myself and prove to everyone else that I can still compete up there, so hopefully I can do that again this week and just come up one place better than last time,” Bjerregaard said.
Ian Poulter (68), Paul Casey (69) and An Byeong-hun (71) were tied for fourth at 8 under on Friday, while Peter Uihlein (66) sank seven straight birdies to jump into a tie for seventh at 7 under with Ross Fisher (71).
Playing alongside Bjerregaard, Uihlein began his birdie spree on the par-5 15th hole and narrowly missed matching the European Tour record of eight consecutive birdies when his 20-foot putt on the par-3 fourth hole slid just to the right of the cup.
“I was cheering him on,” Bjerregaard said. “I was really hoping that would go in.”
Uihlein started the day in a tie for 48th place but is suddenly only five strokes off the pace going into the weekend.
“It was weird. I was level-par going into 15, 1 over for the day, and I felt like I played 24 holes really, really well,” the American said. “I felt like there was going to be a surge coming and I didn’t know it would be seven in a row, but I’m pleased it was.”
Garcia, who shot 64 on Thursday, made three birdies in a blemish-free front nine to get to 11 under before faltering on No. 12 and 13. His second shot on the par-5 15th found the bunker next to the green, but he made a nice recovery to birdie the hole and get a stroke back.
“If you didn’t hit the right shot at the right time you could pay. And I did a couple of times,” Garcia said. “It feels like it should have been a little bit better, but it is what it is.”
The BMW Masters is the third of four events in the European Tour’s Final Series, which ends next week at the DP World Tour Championships in Dubai. Race to Dubai leader Rory McIlroy is skipping this week’s tournament, giving Danny Willett a chance to pass him in the standings with a strong showing in Shanghai.
Willett shot a 69 to get to 3 under on Friday in a tie for 28th.