(Reuters) - American Peter Uihlein took a one-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the European Tour’s Shenzhen International on Friday as compatriot and twice Masters champion Bubba Watson struggled in swirling winds to lie in a share of 42nd place.
Uihlein, tied for second overnight, started on the back nine and had a tough time, managing two birdies and a dropped shot before he took advantage of calmer conditions on the next nine holes to pick up three shots.
His four-under-par 68 took him to a total of 135 at the Genzon Golf Club.
“It was tricky today. The wind was swirling quite a bit,” the 25-year-old Uihlein said. “I got the back nine out of the way pretty quickly. I played very solid.
“I felt like getting anything under par on the back nine was nice, and I played a pretty stress free front nine which is always good.”
Big-hitting Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat was a stroke behind on second, mixing five birdies with two bogies in his round of 69.
“It was a great round. Again, the wind was getting up on a few holes before I finished, but the way I was striking the ball is still very good,” Kiradech said.
“When I go out worldwide, I learn a lot of experience and I saw many top players play. Even this week, we have Bubba Watson around.
“So it’s been helping Asian players to keep improving when we see all the star players, how they are playing, how they are playing the shots, and just adapt it to my golf game and it’s improving.”
Watson, who won last year’s WGC-HSBC Championship in Shanghai in a playoff, dropped three shots on his first nine holes. After making the turn he had two more bogeys against three birdies for a round of two-over 74.
“It’s tough. I haven’t played very well. I haven’t putted very well. But it’s a beautiful golf course,” Watson said.
Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Douglas Beattie