DOHA: A joint-record nine players from Spain (two), South Africa (two), England, Finland, South Korea, Thailand and Wales were tied for the lead at eight-under-par after the second round of the 20th Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The figure matched the European Tour record for most players tied for a lead – a nine-way tie after the first round of the 2007 Wales Open.
The congested leaderboard at Doha Golf Club also featured seven players tied at seven-under and 10 more at six-under, including four-time Major winner Ernie Els and World Number 10 Alex Noren.
Young Korean Wang Jeunghun had a golden chance to take the outright lead late on with a 12-foot birdie putt on 18. However, the 2016 European Tour Rookie of the Year narrowly missed and carded a five-under-par 67 to remain eight-under and level with playing partner Kiradech Aphibarnrat (70) of Thailand and seven others.
South African Jaco Van Zyl (69), also playing in the later rounds, had earlier matched the clubhouse lead posted by six players who teed off early in the morning.
First-round leader Bradley Dredge shot an even-par (72) to remain eight-under, a score matched by English Ryder Cup debutant Andy Sullivan (68), Finland’s Mikko Korhonen (71), South Africa’s Thomas Aiken (68) and Spaniards Jorge Campillo (67) and Nacho Elvira (69).
Campillo and Elvira and Korhonen are all seeking their first European Tour win, while the six other co-leaders have all won multiple titles.
Sullivan won three European Tour titles in 2015 to help secure a Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine last year and is eager to secure a fourth victory, especially following two runner-up finishes last year.
The 29-year-old Englishman carded a second straight 68, but left it late to make a move after opening with 10 straight pars from hole 10. He finally bagged his first birdie of the day at the second and added more at four, seven and eight.
“I feel good. I felt like I've prepared really well for the start of the season and it's nice to finally see some numbers that you would be quite happy with. The last couple of weeks have been a bit frustrating and I felt like it was only a matter of time before I started to play well again, and it's come this week,” said Sullivan, who played his first two rounds with 2013 champion Chris Wood and 2010 champion Robert Karlsson.
“Even today, it was just frustrating on my first nine. I felt like I hit it really good. I hit a lot of shots close and just didn't quite convert, so when I birdied the second, the floodgates opened and I started holing a few more putts.
“The key is just to be patient tomorrow and Sunday. I feel like I'm swinging it well. Just give myself loads of chances and eventually they will drop. It's a nice position to be in and I’m ready to attack at the weekend.”
Dredge, 43, is seeking his first European Tour title since 2006, but was unable to push on after his opening 64.
“Unfortunately it didn't really go my way. I just didn't play as well today. I was struggling. Yesterday I didn't hit as many fairways as I would have liked. Today I also didn't get as many as I would have liked but also didn't putt as well. Overall, just not quite as good,” said Dredge, who tied for fourth last year.
“When we started off, it was pretty benign, pretty calm, but the wind got up and certainly made things a bit more difficult. I just need to try and improve on what I'm doing, and try and get my eye in on the greens like I did the first day and hopefully stay in contention.”