LOUIS Oosthuizen might have been a surprise winner of the British Open two years ago - it was only the second time he had made a cut in a major - but things have become very different since then.
The 30-year-old very nearly added The Masters in April, losing a play-off to Bubba Watson, is 11th in the world and now leads the final World Championship event of the season by five shots at halfway in China.
Rounds of 65 and 63 have taken Oosthuizen to 16 under par in the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills. He held the same advantage after 36 holes at St Andrews in 2010 – and went on to triumph by seven.
“I'm in a great position to win, but it's not even crossed my mind at the moment,” Oosthuizen said.
“There's still a lot of golf to be played. I need to put myself in a great position going down the back nine on Sunday.”
For 90 minutes today he held the course record on his own after his nine-under round. However, in the last group of the day fellow South African and current Open champion Ernie Els matched it to join Adam Scott – the Australian who bogeyed the final four holes at Lytham in July to let him in – in second place.
Two-time former winner Phil Mickelson would have been alongside them but for a closing double bogey. He tried to play out of the hazard left of the green, but moved the ball only a few inches and after two early eagles had to settle for a 69.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry remains very much in the hunt with a second round of 68 to lie joint-fourth on ten-under par. Lowry is bidding for a second win in three starts and a place in the world's top 50 for the first time,
Lowry said: “I didn't birdie two easy par-fives and made a bad bogey on the sixth, but other than that I played lovely all day and gave myself a lot of chances.
“What's not to enjoy? I'm playing a World Golf Championship and I'm up there in the top five going into the weekend.”
As for the European Tour money list race, the absent Rory McIlroy is an even stronger favourite after Ryder Cup team-mate Peter Hanson double-bogeyed the 12th and bogeyed the 14th for a 71 that dropped him from joint third into a tie for 12th.
Having beaten McIlroy in Shanghai last Sunday, Swede Hanson needed to win again to go past the world number one with three weeks left, but he now has nine strokes to make up.