There was no luck for the Irish Down Under as Michael Hoey, Cormac Sharvin at Robin Dawson crashed out of the Australian PGA Championship having never raised a gallop at RACV Royal Pines Resort.
With all three propping up the leaderboard after a dismal opening day, pride was the only thing at stake with the cut-mark out of reach. Hoey managed to return an even-par second round but it was his six-over 78 on day one that did the damage, with the weekend number falling at level-par.
It was a similar tale for Sharvin after posting a 78 in round one; the Ardglass professional going five better with a 73 this morning that still put him well out of the reckoning at seven-over-par.
While Tramore’s Dawson got a blast of reality himself after following up his 80 on day one with a 75 on day two to finish three from the bottom on 11-over-par.
We’ll chalk this one down to the jet-lag lads!
At the head of affairs, defending champion Cameron Smith carded a brilliant 65 on day two to take a one-shot lead into the weekend at Royal Pines.
The home favourite is looking to become the first player to successfully defend the title since Robert Allenby in 2001 and he was nine under at the top of a leaderboard dominated by Australians.
“It was good,” reflected Smith. “I thought I struck it nicely yesterday and the putts weren’t quite going in. I just didn’t quite have the speed yesterday. I did a little bit of extra work this morning on the green and it paid off. I was actually getting putts to the hole today, which is nice.
“I knew I had to get off to a good start to kind of transfer the momentum kind of thing over. You know, got off to a great start, had a pretty crappy bogey there on whatever hole it is, four or whatever. Just a couple of errors in a row. From then on in, it was just really solid golf.
“Not really, just got to go out there and let the clubs do the talking really. I’m not going to do anything extra; just go out there, same game plan as today and hopefully the putts drop again.”
Marc Leishman and Jake McLeod led the chasing pack, one shot clear of countrymen Matt Jager, Dimitrios Papadatos and Christopher Wood.
Smith made seven birdies in his first ten holes and while McLeod opened up a two-shot lead on the back nine, a late stumble handed the initiative back to Smith.
McLeod leads the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit and a win this week could secure him his European Tour playing privileges, while Leishman is looking for a first top tier win on home soil.
“Happy with the position at the moment,” said Leishman. “Lot of golf to play and the course is only getting tougher. It’s starting to speed up, which is good. The sun’s out, it’s warm, it’s only going to dry it even more. Me and Foxy (Ryan Fox) were saying it’s one of those courses where if you’re hitting good shots, you can make a lot of birdies, but if you’re just a little bit off, it’s pretty brutal. I did hit a lot of good shots and a couple of bad ones, but they didn’t cause me too much damage luckily.
“Like I said earlier in the week, we adjust every week. It is quite a big adjustment coming up here to completely different grass, the bermuda, and it’s fairly grainy this year. They’re perfect, though. They’re dead smooth, just a little slower than we’re used to.
“Hopefully we all play well and fight it out, and I would love to be there at the end and hopefully in front. There’s a lot of golf to go, it’s only halfway done, not even halfway done. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. As long as I’m playing good and feeling good on the greens more importantly, which is good.”
American Harold Varner III – the 2016 champion – was at six under, a shot clear of India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar, England’s Andrew Johnston, and Australians David Bransdon, Paul Hayden and Anthony Quayle.
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