Howell followed up his 8-under 64 on Thursday with a 63 in the second round to take a 2-stroke lead over Australian Andrew Buckle. Howell had 11 birdies on the day, one shy of the tour record for a round, and missed a 5-footer on the par-5 18th hole that would have tied that mark after carding a bogey 5 on the par-4 17th.
"My caddie just gave me a telling off as I was a little disappointed to finish 5, 5," Howell said. "But I have just had ... my best score two days in a row, so I have got to be happy."
Buckle shot a 6-under 66 in the second round to get to 15-under-par 129.
Edward Loar, who shared the first-round lead with Liang Wen-Chong after both fired course-record 62s in the first round, leads a group of four players tied for third place at 13-under-par 131.