JEDDAH: Mexico’s Abraham Ancer retained his one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Saudi International on Friday as a slew of big names from the rebel LIV Golf tour failed to make the cut.
Reigning Open champion Cameron Smith, six-time major winner Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Bryson DeChambeau -- all star signings for the Saudi-backed tour – dropped out at the par-70 Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
Ancer added a four-under par 66 to his 63 on Thursday to move to an 11-under par 129, keeping American star Cameron Young at bay by one shot.
Young, who finished second to Smith at last year’s Open and has climbed up the world rankings with some outstanding displays over the past couple of years, shot a second straight 65.
South African Louis Oosthuizen, Australian Marc Leishman and young Thai star Sadom Kaewkanjana were tied for third at eight-under par.
The afternoon conditions were not as difficult as the opening round at the $5-million Asian Tour season opener, where Ancer has had just one bogey in two days.
The world number 37 said it was “very frustrating” to drop a shot at the 17th hole but that he was satisfied with his performance going into day three.
Young, who in 2022 was a runner-up four times and had three third-place finishes, was bogey-free for the round.
“My iron play has been very good so far and I’ve driven it nicely,” said the 25-year-old, who is yet to win on the PGA Tour.
“I’ve controlled my ball really well and given myself probably more opportunities for birdies than most guys have had out here,” he added, saying it was tough to predict a winning number on the course in King Abdullah Economic City.
“It all depends on the wind. If the wind stays kind of like today, I think 20-under would have a really nice chance.
If it picks up, then staying at 10 could be an achievement,” he said.