Halfway Hut at the BMW PGA Championship: Aphibarnrat leads, Scott looking to hunt him down

A round-up of the best stats, quotes and social after 36 holes at Wentworth where Kiradech Aphibarnrat leads on 12-under but Adam Scott is among those hunting him.

Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat added a second round 68 to his opening lap of 64 to head into the weekend at the BMW PGA Championship leading by one stroke on 12-under 132.

His nearest rivals Laurie Canter and Francesco Laporta are Wentworth debutants and behind the pair of them are arrayed a high quality pack of chasers.

Adam Scott carded a 69 to grab solo fourth on 10-under, with Jamie Donaldson, Justin Rose and Billy Horschel sharing fifth on 9-under.

Among those a further shot back are Shane Lowry, Thomas Pieters and Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

Scott, newly located in a full-time capacity in Crans, is seeking a first top 10 finish in his sixth appearance at the championship and a relaxed frame of mind had fuelled his early progress.

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"I feel like my game is in good shape," he said. "It's kind of a bonus to be playing here for me, really. I'm happy that it fell into my schedule.

"It brings back a lot of good memories from early on in my career. There has always been such a great atmosphere here at Wentworth, so I'm happy to be in the mix.

"The sun's been shining, it was really glorious, and getting paired with Justin the first two rounds, our careers have paralleled each other the whole way. I've really enjoyed myself these two days."

As we'll see, stats and trends argue against an Aussie win this week, but first let's take a closer look at the pace-setter.

The leader's story

Aphibarnrat has tried the straight route, but it didn't suit him.

It stifled the Thai golfer and his success so far this week is a direct consequence finally being able to play with the handbrake released.

His 2020/21 PGA Tour season was something of a disaster with not one top 10 finish, but he rescued his playing rights for the next campaign at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship last week.

"I can now play free," he enthused after his second round of 68 built on the 64 with which he opened his account.

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"Before I was a little tight, trying to hit everything straight and into the perfect position, but I love to hit right-to-left and left-to-right.

"Now I've got the card back, I want to play my own game and enjoy myself. I'm really proud of the way I've played in the first two rounds. A lot of good stuff in there.

"This golf course, you can hit a lot of birdies but it can hurt you if you're out of position.

"I don't want to set any goals for the weekend. I just want to go out there and swing, same thing I've been doing. Whatever the result, at the end of the day, I just accept it."

Click here for the leaderboard

Wentworth - a good course for weekend chasers

Whether you look at it from the point of view of position on the leaderboard, or shots behind the pace-setter, the West Course has been more favourable than most courses on the European Tour to a weekend comeback.

In the last 14 editions of this championship four eventual winners were T20th or worse after 36 holes - that 29% of the winners.

Since the first of those 14 championships (in 2007) there have been 545 other regular European Tour starts (not including the American majors and WGC) and they witnessed just 40 wins from T20th or worse - that's only 7%.

What about shots behind the leader at halfway? Seven of those last 14 winners were five or more blows behind the lead (50%). But in the other events? It happened just 21% of the time.

Even allowing for the small sample size of the Wentworth numbers it's a little striking.

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The third round record of Wentworth halfway leaders

This factor runs on from the previous one - chasers here have been helped by some really quite ropey performances from the pace-setters. Let's just look at those last 14 events.

24 men have led or shared the lead at halfway and only three converted the win.

Why so low? Because their average third round score is 73.25.

Moreover, there have been a number of spectacular implosions. For example: Cabrera and Rose (2007) 76 and 73, McGinley (2008) 79, Quiros (2011) 76, Morrison (2012) 81, Molinari (2013) and Lowry (2014) both 73, Hend, Yang and Willett (2016) 73, 75 and 76, Pieters, Jamieson and Molinari (2017) 78, 76 and 74, Lowry and Fitzpatrick (2020) 74 and 76.

Experience of being in-contention

Of the last 16 winners here, 14 had been in the top three (and ties) after 54 holes in a previous championship. In other words, they knew exactly what it was like to sleep on the idea of winning the event.

Who among the weekend golfers who possesses that experience?

Among the big names high up the leaderboard that includes Rose, Bezuidenhout and Lowry.

Other well-known names with that know-how are Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood Danny Willett, Francesco Molinari and Alex Noren.

But among the surprise names are JB Hansen, Shubhankar Sharma, Ross Fisher, Sam Horsfield and Fabrizio Zanotti.

Halfway Hut punt

While those four winners came from off the pace, the other 10 since 2007, of course, didn't - in fact they were all tied seventh or better.

If you also factor in the need for experience of being in the hunt that produces a short-list of Rose, Lowry, Bezuidenhout and - most surprisingly - Zanotti.

The Brit and the Irishman are fancied by the bookies (both 8/1) and you can get Zanotti at 40/1. But Bezuidenhout at 16/1 is the shout.

Quotes

Laurie Canter 11-under

"Maybe the key this week is that it's such a strategic golf course. I just have to have an extra level of patience. I felt knew what I was in for this week. It's front and centre in my head, it's enabled me to play better. I've also come here and watched this event (as a kid) like a lot of the guys, so that's great."

Justin Rose 9-under

(On his manager caddying for him) "It's a really nice experience. Keeps me calm. No point getting frustrated with him because he's out there were moral support. I feel like I'm taking charge of the situation out there which is what I have to do this week. That's been a nice dynamic to this point."

Christiaan Bezuidenhout 8-under

"I was swinging good until I got on the golf course today. Didn't hit the ball well enough to give myself chances and to make putts. I'm going to the range now, try to get my game back on track, get a feeling I can take to the course tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be great."

Shane Lowry 8-under

"Coming here with a little bit of pressure on me needing to perform and play well and I've done that the first two days. I'm pretty happy to be honest. Obviously I'm here to make the Ryder Cup Team as well, but I'd love to win this tournament because it's just so big. It's our biggest event in Europe. I've been close a few times and it would be great to be standing on that 18th green on Sunday with that trophy."

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