Austria No. 1 Bernd Wiesberger (66) and playing partner George Coetzee (67) of South Africa shared the clubhouse lead at nine-under-par after the morning rounds on the second day of the US$2.5 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Korean youngster Ben An Byeong-hun (69) and Argentine Emiliano Grillo (69) were a shot behind on eight-under, one ahead of Darren Fichardt (70), who in 2003 became the tournament’s first South African champion.
Sergio Garcia surged into contention as a second straight 69 put him in a large group at six-under, one ahead of playing partner Ernie Els (72), the 2005 champion. World No. 2 Henrik Stenson (71), the third member of the all-star group, carded a 71 to lie three-under.
Wiesberger, 29, and Coetzee, 28, teed off on hole 10 in a group with Englishman James Morrison (70), who was among those at six-under, although it was his playing partners who stole the show.
Wiesberger picked up a shot on his opening holes before firing four straight birdies from 13 to 16 and picking up two more on the front nine, offset by a bogey on seven.
“I played nicely out there today. I had a lot of birdies on my first nine. I got the putter going and drove it beautifully, only missing the last fairway, just on the fringe,” said Wiesberger, who finished sixth in Abu Dhabi last week.
“I only missed one green, where I hit the flag, so the long game was steady. However, the short irons down the stretch – four, five, six, seven – weren't particularly good. I couldn't get deeper into the 60s, but it was still a very good round.”
Wiesberger said his form in Abu Dhabi and Doha signals that he’s recovering the form that earned him two European Tour titles in 2012.
“I feel comfortable. I haven't really expected it going into these two weeks, especially because I played quite poorly last year, so it gives me great confidence if I keep on doing what I'm doing. I think I've worked on the right things the last couple of weeks and it shows.”
Coetzee admitted he’s a fan of the Doha Golf Club, where he finished joint runner-up to Chris Wood in Doha two years ago after the Englishman eagled the final hole.
“I just like the vibe and the way the course gels into the land they have it on. It's just a fun golf course,” said Coetzee, who won his first European Tour title at last February’s Joburg Open.
“I just want to be in the mix come Sunday. I'm playing well. My swing is coming along and I’m putting pretty nicely. I’ve just got to wait for my birdies, not force it and play the golf course like I know it.”