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Sterne Maintains Edge in Dubai
Richard Sterne kept his one-stroke lead in the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic. The 31-year-old South African followed up his opening, course-record-tying 10-under 62 with a 70 to reach 12-under 132 at Emirates Golf Club.
After posting 10 birdies Thursday, Sterne could only manage four birdies - against two bogeys - to stay ahead of Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen (66), England's Tommy Fleetwood (68) and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher (70) entering the weekend.
"I'm pretty happy with the performance today. It was not as easy as yesterday," Sterne told reporters. "I held it together and I made a couple of good putts at the right time and a couple of good shots."
The 165th-ranked player in the world isn't quite sure how he'll handle the lead entering the final two rounds. "I always kind of won coming from behind. I've been close to the lead on Sunday so I know what it's about," the five-time European Tour winner said.
"There's a long way to go in this tournament. The guys are bunched up and there are some good players and I think anyone five or six back has still got a good chance of winning."
Oleson's six-birdie 66 was Friday's low round. After a five-birdie performance the day before, the 23-year-old went bogey-free again.
"I played more solidly, definitely. I rolled the putts really nicely the first two days, and that's why I'm 11-under," said Olesen, whose only victory on the European Tour came in last year's Sicilian Open.
"I struck the irons a lot better today. I was still struggling a little bit from the tee and I got a few good breaks out there, especially on 8. It could have been a double but I saved par there . . . I want to win twice this season," he added. "That's my main goal. So the quicker I can get the first one, the better."
Two back of Sterne are Scotsman Chris Doak (69), Dane Andreas Harto (67), and Germany's Maximilian Kieffer (68). Romain Wattel, Jeev Milkha Singh and Sergio Garcia each fired 67s to share eighth at 135.
Garcia got off to a fast start. Beginning his second round on the 10th tee, the Spaniard posted four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 18th (his ninth hole). His only dropped shot was a bogey on the par-3 12th, leading him to make the turn in 5-under 32 on the par-37 back nine at Emirates.
But the 33-year Spaniard carded a birdie and a bogey and seven pars on his home half. Garcia said later that, as early as the fourth hole, he considered withdrawing due to tightness in his left shoulder. But because of the hot start he soldiered on.
"On the 14th green, I told my caddie, if it doesn't get better after 18, we'll probably walk. Because what I don't want is to keep building up and not really recover it," Garcia told reporters.
"Then, unfortunately, we started making birdies and eagles, and I thought, well, what do we do now? So I got the physio out and, he worked on it a little bit, put some ball on it. It did feel a little bit better."
The cut was set at 3-under 141. Among those who moved on to weekend play were Lee Westwood - making his season debut - and two-time major winner, American Mark O'Meara.
Westwood has shot rounds of 67 and 71, while O'Meara followed up his opening 67 with a 74 to make the cut right on the number.
Newly appointed 2014 European Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, never could get going this week in the Middle East, posting rounds of 74 and 77 to finish down at the bottom of the leaderboard after 36 holes.
For all the scores, visit http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2013/tournamentid=2013009/leaderboard/index.html?showLeaderboard=Y.