Recap of the day
Tony Finau stamped his authority over the field early in the day with five birdies in his first ten holes. Three shots quickly slipped from his grasp soon afterward before he displayed real class to recover all of them ahead of the round's end, completing a 5-under-par 67 to set an 11-under 133 target which it transpired no-one could match or even come close to. Behind him many big names were laboring: Matthew Fitzpatrick slumped to an 80, Dustin Johnson is 3-over through 36 holes, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are 5-over, Francesco Molinari 7-over. Late in the day Patrick Reed scraped a level-par 72 to grab second on 8-under 136 and he was soon joined by the English duo of Justin Rose (67) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
Low round of the day: Thomas Pieters' 8-under-par 64 which included an eagle-3 and seven birdies in one electric ten hole stretch. It vaulted him 52 places up the leaderboard to T7.
Revised outright betting: 2/1 Finau, 7/2 Rose, 11/2 Fleetwood, 7/1 Reed, 12/1 Schauffele, 22/1 Cantlay
Saturday weather forecast
The wind won't be too difficult at just 12mph, if prediction are to be believed (they've been a little off with the wind this week). Clear skies, temperatures cooler (high 50s) and almost no chance of rain.
Leaders at 36 holes
Tony Finau (67, 133) - Found only half the fairways and just two-thirds of the greens in regulation, yet dropped the putts that mattered. Thrashed eight birdies and wasn't fazed by a double bogey-par-bogey spell shortly after the turn.
Patrick Reed (72, 136) - Pure grind. Landed only 5 of 14 fairways and just 10 of 18 greens in regulation. Hit shot of the day on 18: his drive found water, his drop left him a hanging lie, his fairway wood not only found the green but offered him an 8'0" birdie look. He missed it.
Justin Rose (67, 136) - A Peter Perfect round of five birdies and 13 pars? Maybe not. He could find only 8 of 18 greens in regulation yet was 100% for Scrambling. He was very good, just not conventional.
Tommy Fleetwood (68, 136) - Five birdies and one bogey for the second Englishman and a similar tale of fighting for a score. He missed six greens in regulation and saved par five times.
Fate of the favorites
Dustin Johnson (73, 147) - His tee shots have found the short grass just 12 times in 28 attempts through two days and the game has struggled thereafter. Made four bogeys in six holes around the turn.
Brooks Koepka (74, 146) - There was a time when it looked as if he would struggle to finish the round as a bad back was clearly impeding and hurting him. However finish he did and in courageous style too. Four-over through 13, he made three late birdies (and another bogey) to tidy the card somewhat.
Justin Rose - see above
Tony Finau (67, 133) - (On a bad kick into a hazard) "One thing I've learned in this game, you take the good with the bad and keep moving forward. I knew I was playing well still and still at the top of the leaderboard. Just keep plugging along and try to stay in attack mode. There's a lot of great players looking to chase me down. I've got to stay in attack mode and if I limit the mistakes I think it will be a good weekend."
Justin Rose (67, 136) - "It was the opposite wind today. Although it was tough, certain holes played much harder than yesterday and certain holes played easier. I kept it mentally sharp and towards the end I was trying to whip myself, keep driving forward, making good decisions and good swings."
Tommy Fleetwood (68, 136) - "Good again, especially the back nine, I felt like I swung it really well for a good period of time there. That's the most comfortable I've felt on the course this week and it really wasn't easy today. Tony is great and he's due a win. He's done everything else this year, so I wouldn't put it past him, but there's a long way to go. Two rounds left."
Patrick Reed (72, 136) - "One of those days that you easily could have shot 76 or 77 with playing out of the rough all day and hitting three balls in the water so I'm happy with where I'm at. All I need to do is tighten it up a little bit and we should be right there and ready to go. Even though the PGA TOUR season has now started, for the European Tour, it's still going on. I'm a little bit behind Francesco (Molinari) in that and I'm hoping to close that gap and have a chance to hopefully win the Race to Dubai."
Road to victory at Sheshan International
2017 Justin Rose – R1: 6th, R2: 3rd, R3: 4th
2016 Hideki Matsuyama – R1: 3rd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Russell Knox – R1: 9th, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
2014 Bubba Watson – R1: 19th, R2: 3rd, R3: 3rd
2013 Dustin Johnson – R1: 8th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
Notes: Although Rose would eventually make up eight strokes on the 54-hole leader last year he was actually only four back at 36 holes and that's something of a rule of thumb on this layout. In the eight WGC tournaments (and also the four Asian/European Tour renewals which preceded it) no winner was more than four swings back at halfway. As seen above the last five winners were all inside the top three at this stage.
Fate of the halfway leaders at Sheshan International - where did they finish?
2017 - Dustin Johnson - 2nd
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama - winner
2015 - Kevin Kisner - 2nd
2014 - Graeme McDowell - 3rd
2013 - Dustin Johnson - winner
Notes: 2-for-5 in the last five years. In the history of the tournament on this course nine players have held or shared the halfway lead, with three progressing to the trophy. Prior to that the 36-hole co/leaders were 2-for-6 in four events.
Focus on - Tony Finau's front running
There was a peculiar similarity to the 29-year-old's two previous experiences of a 36-hole lead and he'll be hoping the fact that this occasion doesn't match it bodes well for the weekend. In both the 2014 United Leasing Championship on the Web.com Tour and the 2017 Texas Open he shot an opening 71, then then went low with rounds of 64 and 65 respectively. In the former that earned him a two shot lead, in the latter a share of it. Both times he failed to break par in round three (72-74) and couldn't recover in the final lap (finishing T4 and T3). This week, of course, he has gone low in both the opening circuits. What about sleeping on a lead? He's had four first round leads (three shared), always went backwards in round two (although only once significantly) and never converted the win. He shared the 54-hole lead in this year's U.S. Open before ending the week T5, but when he led the Web.com's 2014 Stonebrae Championship by one with 18 holes to play he stretched out a three shot victory.
Focus on - Hideki Matsuyama's 2018
A return to the site of one of his past successes makes for a timely look at the state of his game and as he currently sits T21 and nine swings back of the lead you wonder how often he has contended this year. In 21 starts has collect just three top fives, but what would be more of a concern is that only twice has he been within five shots of the lead heading into the final lap (and even then once five back and another time four back). Compare that to previous calendar years since he became a PGA Tour regular:
2018: 21 starts - 3 top fives - 2 times within five shots with 18 holes to play
2017: 24 starts - 7 top fives - 5 times within five shots with 18 holes to play
2016: 24 starts - 8 top fives - 10 times within five shots with 18 holes to play
2015: 26 starts - 7 top fives - 7 times within five shots with 18 holes to play
2014: 27 starts - 4 top fives - 4 times within five shots with 18 holes to play
Focus on - Justin Rose at Sheshan
There was a fleeting, but interesting, moment late in the Englishman's second round. He was faced with a four-foot par putt on the 17th green and the pace he hit it revealed the tricky nature of it. But it dropped and he immediately responded with a quietly determined clench of the fist. It felt not only indicative of the short-term test (the putt itself) but also a long-term one (defending his title, regaining the world number one spot). In his five visits to this Shanghai track his 2014 effort is a real outlier. He finished T48 and was never better than T21. But in the other three appearances he ended the week T7 or higher and was never lower than T15 during the week. He's maintaining that this week: T10 after 18 holes, T2 after 36.