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Kang Kyung-nam tightened his grip on OneAsia's Kolon Korea Open with a two-under par 69 on Friday to stand five under for the tournament and take a three-shot lead into the weekend. Korean Kang is the only player to go two rounds under par -- and one of only two in the red for the tournament -- at a brutally set-up Woo Jeong Hills Country Club course, about 85 kms (50 miles) south of the capital, Seoul.
Alone in second place is two-time champion Kim Dae-sub, only recently discharged from 20 months of military service, who fired a 68 to go with his first-round 72.
Sharing third at level par are American Charles Hong Chang-kyu (71-71) and Korean Choi Ho-sung (71-71), while Y.E. Yang -- the first player from Asia to win a Major -- is a shot further back in fifth with Brazilian Lucas Lee.
Kang, who has had two top-three finishes in OneAsia tournaments already this year, went on the defensive after bogeying the third and credits a hot putter for keeping him ahead of the pack.
"You can't be too aggressive here," said the 29-year-old, who has needed just 52 putts over 36 holes. "You just have to get the ball on the green and then take your chances."
He said he had expected a winning score of around eight to 10 under par ahead of the tournament, but had revised his estimate to seven or eight after seeing how tough it was.
Second-placed Kim caught the attention of the golf world when he won his first Korean Open as a 16-year-old high school amateur in 1998, but he proved it was was no fluke by repeating the feat three years later -- after which he immediately turned professional.
He won six times on the Korean Tour until 2010 when he had to stow his clubs for nearly two years while undertaking compulsory military service, but returned to winning ways last month, just three weeks after being discharged, with victory at the Dongu Promi Open.
"I had no expectations to do well because I have only just started playing again," said Kim. "I am just trying to get my game back together, so I am very pleased with my score because this tournament is very important to me."
Another two-time winner, Bae Sang-moon, played his way back into the tournament with a 72 on Friday after going eight over in the first round.
The Korean Golf Association, chastened after American Rickie Fowler shot a course record 63 en-route to a 16-under par total and victory in last year's event, responded by setting some brutal pin positions and growing the rough around the green
The result is a cut set at 10 over par -- a record on OneAsia.
Korean-born Hong, now a naturalised American, was delighted with his second successive 71 after a year he admits has been less than average.
"I really haven't done anything special for a while, so I am really pleased with my tournament so far," he said after a round in which three birdies cancelled out three bogeys.
"This course is so tough, but I managed to keep the ball below the hole and you have to do that to have any chance."
The course got its revenge on American Garret Sapp, one-under and second overnight, who had nine bogeys in round two and now stands at seven over.
Yu Gyoung-yoon's fortunes went in the opposite direction. After shooting an 83 on Thursday, he was 16 shots better on Friday with a tournament-best 67.
Star attraction Ryo Ishikawa from Japan will have his work cut out this weekend at five over par, while U.S.-based 14-year-old Chinese amateur Andy Zhang -- the youngest player ever to take part in a U.S. Open -- missed the cut after rounds of 78.
137 - KANG Kyung-nam (KOR) 68-69.
140 - KIM Dae-sub (KOR) 72-68.
142 - HONG Chang-kyu (USA) 71-71, CHOI Ho-sung (KOR) 71-71.
143 - Y. E. YANG (KOR) 73-70, Lucas LEE (BRA) 72-71.
144 - KIM Dae-hyun (KOR) 71-73, LEE Seong-ho (KOR) 74-70, RYU Hyun-woo (KOR) 75-69, HWANG In-choon (KOR) 74-70, KANG Wook-soon (KOR) 73-71.
145 - David OH (USA) 73-72, PARK Hyun-bin (KOR) 73-72, SONG Ki-joon (KOR) 74-71, Rory HIE (INA) 73-72, LEE Sang-hee (KOR) 77-68.
146 - PARK Jun-sub (KOR) 77-69, CHAE Bum-geun (KOR) 72-74, CHOI Jin-ho (KOR) 74-72, LEE Ki-sang (KOR) 73-73, KIM Byung-jun (KOR) 71-75.
147 - PARK Sang-hyun (KOR) 76-71, YOON Jung-ho (KOR) 72-75, Chris CAMPBELL (AUS) 74-73, MAENG Dong-seop (KOR) 73-74, KIM Seung-hyuk (KOR) 74-73, BANG Doo-hwan (KOR) 74-73, NOH Seung-yul (KOR) 73-74, Ryo ISHIKAWA (JPN) 75-72, SUK Jong-yul (KOR) 71-76.
148 - Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA) 73-75, BAE Hee-chan (KOR) 73-75, BYUN Jin-jae (KOR) 77-71, KIM Woo-chan (KOR) 75-73, MO Joong-kyung (KOR) 78-70.