x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Jacobson has his eyes on a spot in Ryder Cup team

Second-round 66 has Swede in the lead, with form and a probable return to the world's top 50 possibly helping him realise his dream of playing for Europe.

SHANGHAI // Europe's Ryder Cup race could well be led on Sunday night by a player who has appeared in the continent just three times in the past five seasons.

The Swede Fredrik Jacobson leads the HSBC Champions here after a second-round 66 on Friday took him to 11 under par, one ahead of Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen.

Jacobson, 37, has been based in the US since 2004, the year he just missed out on selection for the match in Detroit, and achieved his first PGA Tour victory in June.

Now, poised as he is for a return to the world's top 50, making a debut under Jose Maria Olazabal in Chicago next September is on his radar.

"I just went through a few years where I didn't really focus on the Ryder Cup as much," Jacobson said after leaving Lee Westwood four back and Rory McIlroy six behind.

"The kids were so small and I felt America was a big enough challenge, which I still think it is.

"But the kids are slightly older, so I do feel that Ryder Cup would be one of my main goals for next year.

"I'm starting to get into a lot of the tournaments where I can create points both on the European list and when it comes to world ranking points.

"But first things first. To keep getting better and keep playing well is my goal and if it comes to it where I'm close on the points I'll probably sneak over and play a few when it comes to that time."

He said he might get his European Tour card back from the few tournaments that he played this year.

Jacobson, third in Malaysia last weekend, did not drop a stroke as he took over at the top from the American, Keegan Bradley, who hit a two-under 70 to slip back to fourth spot.

"It's been a great couple of days," added the former Volvo Masters champion. "I feel I've been striking the ball well and taking advantage of the greens playing a little bit softer after that rain we had."

The two lowest rounds of the day came from the pair in second place.

The South African Oosthuizen had a nine-birdie 63 which brought back memories of his seven-shot victory in the British Open at St Andrews last year.

Scott, meanwhile, set up the chance of a second successive World Golf Championships win with a 65. He also birdied half the holes on the 7,266-yard Sheshan course, but had bogeys on the seventh and 15th.

England's Paul Casey matched Jacobson's 66 to move up from 17th to fifth with American Bo Van Pelt on nine under.

Hampered first by a foot injury and then by illness, Casey lost his PGA Tour card last month and said: "That's one of the best rounds I've had in a long time. The golf I played is the golf I remember playing.

"I'm trying to keep my right foot down as long as possible. It doesn't hurt as much and it makes a massive difference. I can suddenly control where the golf ball is going.

"I felt relaxed on the course, as well. I don't like struggling. It's not enjoyable.

"Ryder Cup points are already starting and this is a WGC event, so the season's not over yet. There's a lot to play for."

Westwood birdied three of the last six holes for a 68 and the last of them edged him ahead of a group which includes the English colleagues Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Simon Dyson as well as the Northern Irishman, Graeme McDowell.

McIlroy improved one position to 17th with a 69 that contained seven birdies but also four bogeys.

"I was just always trying to play catch up," said McIlroy, 22. "I'll need to do something pretty good over the weekend if I want to try and win this tournament."