Tianjin, China – Gary Boyd and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet both carded rounds of five-under 67 Friday to move to the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the China Open.
Boyd and Gonnet are knotted at 11-under 133 and own a one-shot lead at Binhai Lake Golf Club.
Branden Grace, who, alongside Louis Oosthuizen, is the only two-time winner this season on the European Tour, put himself in position for a third victory.
He shot a five-under 67 and is alone in third at 10-under 134.
"The most important thing I did today was to play the difficult holes for me sensibly," said Grace, who won twice in his native South Africa in January. "I didn't take any chances on the holes that could cause me real trouble and then I managed to birdie the ones where I can make chances."
Defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts also posted a 67 on Friday and inched up to fourth at minus-nine. He can become the first player in tournament history to successfully defend his title.
"It was pretty good for the first two days," said Colsaerts, who eagled the second hole for the second time this week on Friday. "Funnily enough I probably played better yesterday and shot four-under and then went one better today in the tougher conditions."
These two present a significant challenge to the co-leaders, neither of whom has won on the European Tour.
Boyd began on the 10th tee Friday and bogeyed the par-five 12th, a hole he eagled in round one. It took him six holes to atone for the error with a birdie at the par-five 18th.
Starting with another birdie at the par-five second, Boyd birdied five of his last eight holes, including a tough 12-footer at the fifth. His last birdie came at the ninth to give him a share of the lead at the midway point.
"It was good out there," said the Englishman. "I had to stay patient on the front nine and was one over playing my ninth hole, but managed to get on in two and two-putt for birdie and really get my round going.
"I have been playing pretty well and I have just trusted what I have been working on with my old coach since two weeks ago. I was a bit lost in too many thoughts and trying too many different things for a while and that is not something that you want to be doing in tournament golf. It is starting to pay off this week."
Gonnet also started on the back nine in round two, but his round was a little more consistent than his fellow co-leader. He dropped a shot at 13, but tallied three birdies in his last five holes to make the turn at eight-under par.
On his second nine, Gonnet birdied three, five and seven for his piece of the 36-hole lead.
Jin-ho Choi (67), Marcus Fraser (69), Gareth Paddison (68) and Ignacio Garrido (69) share fifth place at eight-under par.
Danny Willett (68), Victor Dubuisson (68), Joost Luiten (71), Francesco Molinari (65), Robert-Jan Derksen (69), Scott Strange (71) and Oliver Wilson (67) are knotted in ninth at seven-under 137.
NOTES: First-round leader Matthew Baldwin struggled to a one-over 73 and fell into a tie for 16th at six-under...Peter Hanson, the third-round leader at the Masters, and European Tour icon Colin Montgomerie headline a group tied for 29th at minus-four...Ian Poulter shot his second straight one-under 71 and made the cut on the number at two-under 142...His good friend Paul Casey and amateur Tian-lang Guan, who at just over 13 years of age, is the youngest competitor in European Tour history, did not make the cut.