England’s Aaron Rai set a new course record at the Hong Kong Open by shooting a nine-under-par 61 for a four-stroke lead after round two.
The 23-year-old from Wolverhampton had six birdies in his first nine holes, including four in a row from the 12th, adding three more on the back nine.
Rai broke the course record at Hong Kong Golf Club by two shots as he moved to 14 under par for the two rounds.
“Again, we were lucky with the conditions,” said the world number 201.
“We didn’t have much wind and, starting out pretty early the first nine holes feels like you’re playing a round at home, which is nice.
“I played very well, kept the ball in play, had a lot of chances and made a lot of putts, too. Everything was on song.”
South Korea’s Hyowon Park shot a bogey-free 62 and is second on 10 under, while England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick is third, two strokes further back, after he also carded a 62, sinking five birdies in his last eight holes.
American Micah Lauren Shin shot a 67 to move fourth on seven under, while Tommy Fleetwood, Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, Brazilian Adilson da Silva and Australians Jake Higginbottom, Jason Scrivener and Scott Hend are all one shot behind in joint fifth.
Masters champion Patrick Reed produced six birdies in his final seven holes to reach level par and guarantee he makes the weekend.
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website
An entertaining showdown between two of the game’s all-time greats to settle a score which has rumbled on for more than two decades?
Or simply a crass cash generator for two ageing millionaires which leaves the sport looking desperate for attention?
Opinion has been divided over ‘The Match’ between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods in Las Vegas on Friday, a $9m (£7m) winner-takes-all showdown which is being streamed on pay-per-view across the United States on Thanksgiving weekend.
One thing everybody can agree on is, for better or worse, golf will never have been seen anything like this before.
No spectators will be allowed on the course, meaning the only way to watch in the US is by paying the $19.99 (£15.50) fee for commercial-free coverage on television.
Viewers will be provided with a candid insight into what the microphone-wearing players and their caddies are saying between shots, while betting odds will be displayed on the screen to tempt them into wagering.
Real-time, hole-by-hole statistics, displaying the probability of different outcomes, will help them make their choices.
Other gimmicks include drones providing camera angles that “have never been seen before” in live golf coverage, according to the organisers, and a one-hour pre-event programme featuring NBA legend Charles Barkley and Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson.
“This is me versus him, this is winner take all and it has a unique, special feel golf doesn’t have all the time, or rarely has ever had, if ever,” said Mickelson.
“I am hopeful this is received well, I am hopeful we provide a glimpse into the future of what sport-watching is all about.”
All about the cash?
Woods and Mickelson, who will tee off at Shadow Creek around 20:00 GMT on Friday, were pictured behind stacks of cash – purportedly the money the victor will take home.
But the image of the American pair, who are among the richest golfers in history, drew some criticism.
Despite being outside the world’s top 10 and winning few tournaments, Woods and Mickelson still earned more money last year than any other golfers – $43.3m (£33.6m) and $41.3m (£32.1m) respectively – according to sports finance experts Forbes.
Money, unsurprisingly, is a key theme of an event being held in the US gambling capital.
During the round Mickelson and Woods will challenge each other with side bets – for example, nearest the pin or longest drive – with the money reportedly going to charity.
The bravado started at Tuesday’s news conference when Mickelson laid down a $100,000 (£77,600) wager that Woods would not birdie the first hole. Woods told him to double it to $200,000 (£155,200).
If, indeed, that money is coming out of the pockets of the players – or sponsors – the rest of the pot is being paid for by the viewers.
Mickelson says the watching public are being given the ability to play “fantasy golf” and believes allowing them to take part in live, real-time betting will only pique interest in the sport.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan admitted in April that “there are commercial opportunities” for the professional body in the expansion of legalised sports betting in the United States.
Fifteen years too late?
With 19 majors between them and two decades apiece at the top, Woods and Mickelson are two of the most recognisable golfers on the planet.
Battles for the game’s biggest prizes and the number one ranking, plus a frostiness in their relationship which has since thawed, created an enduring rivalry between the pair.
In recent years their powers have waned, 42-year-old Woods not adding to his 14 majors since 2008 after personal and injury problems and 48-year-old Mickelson not lifting one in the past five years.
However, both have shown glimpses of recapturing their form by claiming PGA Tour victories this year and, in Tiger’s case, threatening at the Open Championship and US PGA Championship.
Nevertheless, it does not seem to have captured the imagination of the younger generation of leading players.
“Look, if they had done it 15 years ago it would have been great,” Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy said. “But nowadays, it has missed the mark a little bit.”
World number four Justin Thomas, who is an American Ryder Cup team-mate of Woods and Mickelson, indicated last month he would not be paying the $19.99 subscription fee to watch.
“Love TW and Phil to death, but there’s a zero percent chance I order that,” Thomas tweeted. “I’ll be watching football!”
Spain’s Jon Rahm, ranked eighth, said he felt the match is “10 years too late”.
“Maybe when they were both in their prime it would have been extremely amazing,” he said.
England’s Eddie Pepperell, the world number 38, described the match as “putrid attempt at attention” which will “be futile for everyone”.
While there have been plenty of dissenting voices, few high-profile players have publicly backed the event.
When the Mickelson versus Woods match was confirmed earlier this year, former Masters winner Adam Scott said he was open to more exhibition golf being played and welcomed the prospect of a 18-hole match against fellow Australian Jason Day.
“I think it’d all be in good fun,” Scott said. “I’d like to think there is room for exhibition golf; it’s something the tour down there should maybe look at trying to do.”
One suspects any future plans will depend on the number of people who engage with – and most importantly, spend money on – Friday’s match between Mickelson and Woods.
“I just don’t want to lose to him and give him the satisfaction because the bragging rights are going to be even worse than the money,” said Mickelson.
“Every time I see you I want to be able to rub it in. I want to sit in the champions’ locker room at Augusta and talk smack. I want that.”
Woods described Mickelson as “one of the greatest players to ever pick up a golf club” while Mickelson said: “He’s the greatest of all time. I’ve seen him do things with a golf ball that have never been done.”
Woods added: “We’ve gone at it for over two decades. I missed competing [while injured] and being able to go against Phil like this. It gets my juices flowing, for sure.”
The contest, which will see both players wearing microphones, coincides with Thanksgiving weekend. And with no fans allowed on the course, the only option to watch it live is on pay-per-view television.
“This event is designed to be a unique experience for the golf viewer, to create a production from drone coverage to on-screen gambling, to live mics and interaction,” said Mickelson.
“It’s an insight into the game which you’re normally not able to see. It’s why it’s on pay-per-view, because we had to eliminate the commercials to have that insight in between the shots.”
Speaking ahead of the Ladies European Tour’s season-ending event, the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de Espana, Matthew said selecting Britain’s most successful golfer was an obvious choice.
“It was a no brainer,” said Matthew. “I’m delighted to have Laura alongside me on the journey to Gleneagles. She is hugely respected by the players and has a great sense of humour, which will bring a bit of levity.
“Her experience speaks for itself: she has played in 12 Solheim Cups, on both winning and losing teams, she has won 87 titles around the world and has been the lynchpin of the Ladies European Tour for the last 30 years.
“The players that will be in the team have such respect for her that if any of them need a question answered, they will listen to Laura.”
Davies’ decision to accept the role is a surprise given that she has always rejected overtures to lead the European team.
“Solheim Cup players lose the ability to function for one week every two years, and it would drive me insane to be asked to go and get bananas on the third green,” Davies commented last August.
“I couldn’t handle it. I’m not interested. I don’t want to do it,” she added.
However Davies now says she is thrilled to have been offered the role. “I’m delighted and honoured to have been asked to be a vice-captain for the first time by Catriona,” Davies said.
“She sent me a text message when I was doing commentary at The Ryder Cup and I thought, ‘Ah, I wonder what this will be about’.
“Sure enough, she asked me if I would do it and I didn’t even have to think about it. I want to be part of the team and I hope that I can make a positive contribution and help in any way that I can.”
But he fell eight shots behind leaders Danny Willett and Patrick Reed, who are on 14 under with one round to play.
“It’s just golf, but it does hurt when you have days like that,” Fleetwood said.
“Today pretty much summed up the second half of the season. I’ll go home and I’ll spend time with my son tonight.
“I feel the adrenaline might have gone now. I think you kind of know when your time’s up. I lasted within two days of the [end of the] season and it was always a stretch trying to win it.”
Fleetwood needs to win at the Jumeirah Golf Estates course to overhaul Ryder Cup team-mate and Open champion Francesco Molinari, who leads the Race to Dubai.
Sheffield’s Willett is chasing his first title since he won his debut major at Augusta in April 2016.
The 31-year-old, whose season has been troubled by injury, said: “I’m not going to lie – it would be an amazing thing to win, but regardless of what happens, just looking more in the long-term of my career, really, is pretty good.”
Overnight leader Matt Wallace, who is chasing his fourth title of 2018, fell down the field after hitting a third-round score of 71.
His compatriot Jordan Smith is third on 13 under, while Lee Westwood, who is seeking back-to-back wins following his victory in Sun City, is two shots off the lead, alongside Wallace and South Africa’s Dean Burmester.
Rory McIlroy is five adrift after a 71 which included a double bogey on the 17th.
Italian Francesco Molinari remained on course to win his first Race to Dubai title after finishing the opening round of the DP World Tour Championship a shot better than rival Tommy Fleetwood.
The 36-year-old can only be denied the overall crown if Fleetwood wins the season finale and he finishes worse than tied fifth with one other person.
Molinari is two behind leaders Jordan Smith and Adrian Otaegui on four under.
England’s Danny Willett is on five under alongside Spaniard Jon Rahm.
Molinari held a share of the lead after 14 holes at Jumeirah Golf Estates, but then three-putted both the 15th and 18th.
The Italian, Fleetwood’s playing partner, said: “It’s only Thursday so there are so many things that can happen. Both of us did not hit the ball our best but we managed to scramble well and close out two decent rounds.
“I did a good job of thinking shot by shot and that’s what I need to do. I don’t think there is any benefit to thinking about what-ifs. It’s too early.”
Fleetwood, whose partnership with Molinari at the Ryder Cup was known as “Moliwood”, added: “You come into this week still with a chance of the Race to Dubai – one round down and we still have a chance. As long as our head’s above water for that, we’ll be happy and keep going.”
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and Masters champion Patrick Reed are part of a 12-way tie on three under on a day when 46 of the 60-man field shot par or better.