Aussie Hebert looks to achieve at Mount Juliet what Norman couldn’t

Bernie McGuire
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Lucas Herbert (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Aussie Lucas Herbert continues to set the pace heading into the weekend rounds of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet in Co Kilkenny.

Twenty-six years after then World No. 1 Greg Norman competed in the 1995 Irish Open at Mount Juliet, the Bendigo-born Herbert added a second round five-under par 67 to his blistering opening 64 to move two clear of his nearest rivals at 13-under par.

Herbert, 25, winner on Australia Day last year of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, has brilliantly compiled 17 birdies over the opening two rounds on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.

“It was a little frustrating but also felt like I did pretty well to scrap 67 out of that,” he said. “I holed some really nice putts and missed some that I thought was a good chance to make; obviously the double on three, but other than that it’s pretty solid.

“For a round that hopefully is not the better one of the week, I felt like I did really well to get a lot out of it and put myself into a very good position going into the weekend.”

Herbert is returning to the European Tour after two top-20 place results on the PGA Tour – a T18th at the Memorial and a T19th in last week’s Travelers Championship. Being back in Europe has certainly seen the Western Bulldogs AFL supporter warmed to the overcast, cold and windy conditions in Ireland with the current World No. 91 singling out a new physio coach for special praise.

“I’m going to give a lot of credit to my new physio. Luke is really good; Rex as he’s more commonly known,” said Herbert.

“I’ve just been able to keep my body consistent out there on Tour. I felt like early this year, I would turn up one day and my body felt great. It would move the way I wanted to, and come back the next day and it didn’t move the same.

“So he’s been really good and making sure we sort of kept a good base level each day and felt like I can move the way I want to and the ball sort of comes out where you want it to. That’s been probably the biggest change in recent results. I can’t take too much of the credit. I have to give some to him.”

Herbert’s position atop of the board also puts him in prime position to not only capture a second European Tour win but to secure a place into next fortnight’s 149th Open Championship at Royal St. George’s with the top-three Irish Open place-getters, not otherwise exempt, into the Open.

And Herbert also spoke of a decision to base himself in Orlando instead of the long haul drain of returning every so often to Australia.

“This year is pretty crazy — well, the last 18 months have been pretty crazy,” he said.

“And I did the quarantine going back to Australia once and it was pretty brutal. As a golf pro, there’s not a lot you can do sitting inside for two weeks. If you’re a businessman or something like that, you can maybe do some work on a computer. But I felt so useless sitting there. I felt like I was wasting a lot of time if I was going to go back and forth to Australia to do that.

“I went to America to play the WGC at Concession and was in Orlando for 12 hours and said, ‘Yeah, this is where I need to be,’ and decided to set up a base there. Been around a lot of other Australians, as well, which has been good. Got a good Australian contingent there and I feel like we have that camaraderie as well as good players to practise with and play money games against.

“I’ve been fortunate to get some starts on the PGA Tour, as well, which has really improved my game and taken it I think to a bit of another level. It’s been a really productive year in that respect and I’m really glad that I did it.”

England’s Andy Sullivan (66) and Scotland’s Grant Forrest (67) share second place at 11-under par with England’s Dale Whitnell (67) in fourth spot on 10-under par. Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy (67) along with reigning Open Champion Shane Lowry (69) are among a big group on five-under par. Cormac Sharvin was also at five-under having picked up a shot early in round three.

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