Scrivener in the hunt for Abu Dhabi title

Australian Jason Scrivener is lying second at halfway in the Abu Dhabi Championship, a shot behind leader Francesco Molinari.

JASON SCRIVENER of Australia tees off on the 7th hole during the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik and Annika at Gothenburg, Sweden.
JASON SCRIVENER of Australia tees off on the 7th hole during the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik and Annika at Gothenburg, Sweden. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.

Australian Jason Scrivener is back in contention to win the Abu Dhabi Championship, the tournament in which he enjoyed his biggest pay-day in golf.

At halfway, the 33-year-old lies just a shot off the lead held by Francesco Molinari, the resurgent former British Open champion, and his Italian compatriot Guido Miggliozzi on the Yas Golf Links course where Scrivener finished second two years ago.

That was the best week of his career, as he scooped an $A1.7 million pay cheque, and he now looks in the mood for another crack at the lucrative title as he continued the impressive form that saw him finish runner-up in the Australian PGA behind Cam Smith in November.

Scrivener followed up his brilliant two-eagle, opening round of 65 with a 70, which again featured a couple of spectacular shots - a tee shot to within four foot on the 212-yard par-3 fourth hole and a 30ft birdie putt on the 14th.

It left him on nine-under for the tournament in his first event of the year, one ahead of a group of five headed by another former British Open champ Shane Lowry.

And just two behind Scrivener is a logjam of seven others, including his compatriot Min Woo Lee, who looks in a good position to attack after adding a three-under 69 to his opening four-under 68, and New Zealander Ryan Fox, who carded a 66.

Lee could, however, have been even closer to the lead if he had not found a fairway bunker, then the rough, before three-putting the last for a closing bogey six

Meanwhile, Molinari's surge in form gathered pace with a second straight 67 for his halfway total of 10 under, which Migliozzi matched with a 69, thanks to birdies on his last three holes.

Molinari won three times in 2018, including the British Open at Carnoustie and the European Tour's flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth, before becoming the first European player to compile a perfect 5-0 record in that year's Ryder Cup.

The 40-year-old's fortunes have dwindled, though, as he hasn't won a tournament for nearly four years but there were signs of the old Molinari at last week's Hero Cup in which he went unbeaten while captaining Continental Europe to victory.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself. It's a couple of good rounds but I know, I'm aware of where I'm coming from," he said.

"The game feels different. I think it looks different, too."

Molinari's goal this year is a fourth Ryder Cup appearance on home soil in Rome, and he admitted: "It would be incredible.

"I never needed a pick for my three Ryder Cups, so it would be nice not to need a pick again this year."

Overnight leader and Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald fell five shots off the pace after adding a 75 to his opening 64.