Defending champion Antoine Rozner holds lead at halfway point of Aviv Dubai Championship

Frenchman who won inaugural event last year shoots bogey-free 64 on the Fire Course

Frenchman Antoine Rozner is halfway to retaining his title at the Aviv Dubai Championship after carding an 8-under-par 64 on Friday to hold a one-shot lead.

The defending champion, whose victory in the inaugural event last year represented his first European Tour win, remains bogey free around the Fire Course after reeling off eight birdies in his second round to top the leader board. His 64 was the joint-lowest score posted on Friday.

Rozner heads the standings on 15-under ahead of Italy’s Francesco Laporta and Denmark’s Joachim B Hansen, the overnight leader. They signed off with a 64 and 67, respectively.

Finland’s Kalle Samooja sits two off the summit following another 64, while England's Paul Waring and 2017 Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood are on 12-under. Meanwhile, two-time major winner Martin Kaymer lays some way back on 5-under, with reigning Dubai Desert Classic champion Paul Casey one shot worse off.

“I think I was playing really well, even on the front nine — a few putts didn’t drop,” Rozner said. “I just kept putting myself in good positions hole after hole and a few putts dropped on the back nine, which was great. It was definitely one of my best ball-striking rounds out here between this year and last year.

“My long game was perfect; I was striping it shot after shot. I missed one green on 17 and that was the only hole I put myself in trouble, but I got away with it with a good par.

“I’m just very pleased — it’s not that easy. You still have to play well, hit good shots, make some putts. I’m not the only one who’s playing well so you’ve got to keep grinding for the next two days.”

Rozner added: “Stay aggressive is the mindset; you have be aggressive over and over. I did that really well last year. Obviously I can use that experience from last year and that’s helping me. Last year, I was so aggressive over four rounds and I think it’s paying off this week, so if I keep doing what I’m doing over the next two days, hopefully there will be a good result in there.”

Meanwhile, Emirati amateur Ahmad Skaik narrowly missed the cut, carding a 1-over 73 to sit out the final two rounds by two shots. The UAE’s number one golfer, competing on a sponsor’s invite, was aiming to become the first player from the Emirates to make the cut at a European Tour event.

However, Skaik could not build on Thursday’s brilliant 68, carding four bogeys and one birdie in his first 12 holes on Friday. To his credit, Skaik bounced back superbly with birdies on his 15th and 16th holes, but could not pick up another couple of shots coming home that would have continued his tournament.

Updated: November 13th 2021, 5:07 AM