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Finau Takes The Rough With The Smooth At WGC-HSBC Champions

America’s Tony Finau followed his opening round of 66 with one of 67 to move to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament at Sheshan International today.

Finau, one of the success stories for the United States team at the recent Ryder Cup match against Europe, has maintained the form he showed that week in Paris and has promised all-out attack over the weekend in his bid to win for the first time since 2016.

On 11 under par, the popular American lies three strokes ahead of Patrick Reed, who was unable to produce the fireworks of the previous day in a level par round of 72, Justin Rose, who also had a 67, and Tommy Fleetwood, who had a second successive 68.

It was a day when the golfing gods initially smiled on Finau and then had a bit of fun at his expense. First he had five birdies in his first 10 holes to move to 11 under par and into the outright lead – and then he double bogeyed the 11th when his ball landed on a sprinkler head beside the green and kicked into a hazard.

Another dropped shot at the 13th brought Finau back to the field, but three birdies in the last five holes restored his lead at the top. To say it was deserved would be an understatement. “One thing I’ve learned in this game is that you take the good with the bad and keep moving forward,” he said. “I knew I was still playing well and still at the top of the leaderboard.”

With Rose, Fleetwood and Reed snapping at his heels, Finau believes that attack will be the best form of defence for the next 36 holes. “I think I’ll stay in attack mode,” he said. “There are a lot of great players here that are looking to chase me down, but if I continue to make birdies and limit the mistakes, I think it will be a good weekend.”

He could certainly take heart from the words of Fleetwood, who says he would not begrudge Finau victory here this week. “Tony is great,” the Englishman said. “He’s done everything else this year, so I wouldn’t put it past him, or hold it against him, if he did get the win. But there’s a long way to go.”

It says everything about Justin Rose’s ability to focus that he was unaware that he had gone bogey free in a round that was made up of 13 pars and five birdies, three in a front half of 33, and two on an inward half of 34. Rose is determined to make a strong defence of the title he won last year in dramatic fashion and he is deeply satisfied with his progress so far.

“It’s a golf course that rewards good play, but it wasn’t easy today in the cross winds,” he said. “I kept it mentally sharp and towards the end of the round I was trying to whip myself and keep driving forward.”

Rose’s favourite shot of the day was a four-iron from 230 yards into the par five 18th which set up an eagle putt that drifted just wide of the hole. He was most pleased, however, with the par he secured at the 17th when he sank a tricky putt from around five feet to keep his momentum going.

Like Rose, Fleetwood is a player with an even temperament and a demeanour that hides a fiercely competitive streak. He is in fine form and can be expected to mount a strong challenge over the weekend. Two rounds of 68 is no mean feat and with only two bogeys in 36 holes he looks fresh and alert.

The same cannot be said for Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari or Dustin Johnson, who between them are a combined 15 over par after two rounds. Their time will come again, but not this week it would seem.