Byeong-hun An (pictured by Getty Images) produced a scorching seven under par 65 to share the second round lead with Spain’s Pedro Oriol at the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic, before the Korean made clear his ambitions to win this week and chase down Challenge Tour Rankings leader Andrew Johnston.
An, who still holds the record as the youngest player to win the prestigious US Amateur Championship having claimed the title in 2009, carded the same score which earned him the course record at the stunning Almouj Golf, The Wave last year.
While it did not count as a course-equalling score due to the fact that there were preferred lies, the 23 year old moved up 28 places to join Oriol at the top on seven under, and he was delighted with his performance, which comprised five birdies and an eagle at the par five third.
The Seoul-born player is now keen to push on and claim a second victory of the year, having won the prestigious Rolex Trophy earlier in August, and he admitted he has the Challenge Tour Number One title in his sights with just the season-ending Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club to go after this week’s penultimate event.
“I hit it really well out there,” said An, who has already sealed graduation to The 2015 Race to Dubai having earned €120,326 this season. “Even yesterday I was hitting it really well but I had some bad luck.
“I putted better than the first day and I didn’t leave myself any bogey chances. Everything was a putt for birdie. But it was just the putting today, that’s why the score was so much lower today. I’m hitting it great out there.
“My shots are so good right now, even when the putts don’t drop, I can at least make pars. It’s a bit disappointing that it didn’t equal my record but I’m just trying to play the best that I can so it’s nice.
“I can definitely enjoy my golf a little more now that I have sealed my card. It takes a lot of pressure off. Last year I wasn’t in this situation, I was under a lot of pressure at this event, but it’s been really relaxing the last couple of weeks and I think that’s why I’m playing better. It’s nice weather here and it’s just a great place to be.
“It definitely helped me a lot to get that first professional win too. That’s the toughest thing to do, but I’m really happy that it happened for me because it was three years on the Challenge Tour before I won.
“I’ve been hitting it well and hopefully the putts will drop over the weekend. It will depend on the conditions a little because when the wind picks up it definitely gets a little harder, but I’m playing great.
“I’m definitely aiming for that top spot in the Rankings. I want to win this week and win next week. That still might not be enough if Andrew plays well but that’s my goal over the next two weeks, get as much money as possible to get to the top of the Rankings. It would be great to have the title of Challenge Tour Number One.”
Oriol, meanwhile, bounced back after a disappointing start to his second round to add a four under par 68 to his three under opening 69 and, after a season which began with a tied runner-up finish at the Barclays Kenya Open, he is determined to seal a first Challenge Tour title on a course he thoroughly enjoys.
“It was windy from the very start,” said the 28 year old. “I hit a six-iron second shot into the first, the wind started to blow and it went right into the water, but that’s the only mistake I made today. I made an up and down though so it was a great bogey, and my only one today.
“The rest was very solid, like yesterday. I’m feeling really good with my swing and mentally I’m very good at the moment.
“I’m happy because any time I’m making mistakes I’m staying very calm. I’ve been playing like that throughout the year. I feel I’m doing good things so hopefully this weekend will be good for me.
“I need a big finish this week, I think a second place will put me into the top 15 but I just want to go and try to win, get the job done and everything else will happen with that.
“I’ve finished in the top five a couple of times this year so I just need to finish first now. But there are a lot of good players this week so I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and stay patient. This is a tough course and you have to play well. If the wind blows it’s a really big test so you just need to play it shot by shot.
“I love it here. The views are spectacular, the design is great and I just love it, I feel really good here. The temperatures have been really nice, not as hot as last year, so you come to the sea and see the nice views and it makes you feel really good.”
Swedes Pelle Edberg (70) and Pontus Widegren (69) were joined in third place on five under by Dane Lasse Jensen (73), who would move from 17th in the Rankings to inside the all-important top 15 with a high finish this week.
Scot Andrew McArthur (71) and England’s Jason Barnes (75), who are 18th and 25th in the Rankings respectively, are also hoping to boost their hopes of European Tour promotion this week and they share sixth place on four under par.
137 P Oriol (Esp) 69 68, B An (Kor) 72 65,
139 P Widegren (Swe) 70 69, L Jensen (Den) 66 73, P Edberg (Swe) 69 70,
140 A McArthur (Sco) 69 71, J Barnes (Eng) 65 75,
141 P Maddy (Eng) 70 71, J Palmer (Eng) 69 72, T Sluiter (Ned) 71 70, B Ritthammer (Ger) 70 71,
142 R Kind (Ned) 71 71, M Orrin (Eng) 71 71, N Ravano (Ita) 71 71,
143 G Murray (Sco) 70 73, C Hanson (Eng) 70 73, M Jonzon (Swe) 74 69, R Coles (Eng) 75 68, N Quintarelli (Ita) 72 71, W Harrold (Eng) 73 70, M Lafeber (Ned) 71 72,
144 O Farr (Wal) 73 71, N Dougherty (Eng) 74 70, R Davies (Wal) 71 73, W Booth (Sco) 71 73, C McDonnell (Eng) 70 74,
145 D Coupland (Eng) 73 72, A Hortal (Esp) 76 69, P Figueiredo (Por) 70 75, S Hutsby (Eng) 72 73, O Stark (Swe) 73 72, J Roos (RSA) 73 72, R Gouveia (Por) 69 76,
146 M Tullo (Chi) 73 73, C Paisley (Eng) 69 77, M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 73 73, E Espana (Fra) 73 73, J Sjöholm (Swe) 70 76, C Ford (Eng) 72 74, J Rask (Swe) 72 74, M Delpodio (Ita) 72 74,
147 A Tadini (Ita) 73 74, J Stalter (Fra) 74 73, G Shaw (Nir) 68 79, J Guerrier (Fra) 74 73, A Bernadet (Fra) 74 73, A Rota (Ita) 75 72, S Henry (Sco) 70 77, T Linard (Fra) 74 73, J Edfors (Swe) 74 73, D Gaunt (Eng) 72 75, J Fahrbring (Swe) 73 74, N Lemke (Swe) 75 72,
148 T Murray (Eng) 73 75, B Åkesson (Swe) 73 75, B Hebert (Fra) 73 75, P Relecom (Bel) 72 76, A Björk (Swe) 75 73, J Winther (Den) 75 73, L Kennedy (Eng) 72 76, S Brown (Eng) 74 74, M Lampert (Ger) 74 74, J Huldahl (Den) 77 71,
149 J Garcia Pinto (Esp) 74 75, M Ford (Eng) 72 77, B Chapellan (Fra) 71 78, D Law (Sco) 72 77, T Pilkadaris (Aus) 73 76, W Besseling (Ned) 72 77,
150 A Snobeck (Fra) 73 77, P Dwyer (Eng) 73 77, H Bacher (Aut) 71 79, J Senior (Eng) 72 78, A Velasco (Esp) 74 76, D Ulrich (Sui) 74 76, D Stewart (Sco) 75 75, P Hedblom (Swe) 73 77,
151 J Lagergren (Swe) 73 78, J Moul (Eng) 74 77, C Bouniol (Fra) 74 77, D Kemmer (USA) 76 75, S Tiley (Eng) 73 78, H Mubarak (am) (Brn) 75 76,
152 B Evans (Eng) 75 77, B Longmuir (Sco) 76 76, R McGowan (Eng) 77 75, J Makitalo (Fin) 75 77,
153 T Remkes (Ned) 70 83,
154 C Shinkwin (Eng) 78 76, S Fallon (Eng) 78 76, M Wiegele (Aut) 76 78, S Arnold (Aus) 79 75,
155 H Joannes (Bel) 79 76, P Stojanovski (Aus) 75 80, C Nicoll (Sco) 76 79, L Gagli (Ita) 78 77,
156 F Bergamaschi (Ita) 73 83, J Lando Casanova (Fra) 82 74,
157 M Haines (Eng) 80 77,
158 G Cambis (Fra) 72 86,
159 N Yacoob Saleh (am) (Brn) 76 83,
162 J Townsend (Aus) 86 76, T Pfister (Sui) 82 80, A Al Musharrekh (Uae) 79 83, K Benz (Sui) 76 86,
163 C Brazillier (Fra) 79 84, A Al Rumhy (am) (Oma) 76 87,
165 H McCullen (am) (Eng) 75 90,
178 H Al Harthy (am) (Oma) 90 88,
179 A Hameed Saleh (am) (Oma) 92 87,
183 D Hon (RSA) 91 92,
** C Aguilar (Esp) 75 RT, J Singleton (Eng) 88 WD, R McEvoy (Eng) 76 DQ
Source: European Tour