Michael Hoey rubber-stamped his credentials as a title challenger in Australia this week after posting a four-under par 68 in round two of the ISPS Handa Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Club.
In a bizarre round of golf, Hoey bookended his scorecard with successive bogeys at one and two, and 17 and 18 but for an astonishing stretch of scoring illuminating its mid-section.
From holes 5-12, the Northern Irish professional scorched the Australian turf with six birdies and an eagle to find himself in a share of 9th spot on 10-under par, just four shots off the lead.
Hoey, who missed cuts at his two previous European Tour events in December – the South African Open and the Australian PGA Championship – will now be hoping to reignite his European Tour ambitions with a big weekend.
It was a good day for another European Tour winner too with 2017 British Masters Champion, Paul Dunne rediscovering some timely form.
Like Hoey, Dunne was playing on the Creek Course today and took route 66 to the clubhouse having fired five birdies, an eagle and just the solitary dropped shot.
The 26-year old heads into moving day in a tie for 16th spot on nine-under par, just a shot behind Hoey.
While in more good news for Ireland’s hopefuls, over on the Beach Course, Gavin Moynihan made the cut on the mark despite a nervy second round.
The Mount Juliet professional, whose season began at the Mauritius Open in December where he placed tied 11th, would no doubt have had his two subsequent missed cuts at the South African Open and the Dunhill Championship in the back of his mind when coming down the stretch.
And to his credit, the Dubliner didn’t falter, playing his last four holes in one-under par to sign for an even par 72 – making the cut on the mark at minus-five.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be for Portmarnock amateur, Conor Purcell who returned a 76 in round two to finish well down the board.
Yet what an experience for the youngster who earned his place in the field after becoming the first Irish winner of the Australian Amateur Championship last month. There’s no doubt that a great career in golf lies in wait for the Dubliner and this week will only help him forge it.
The men to catch at the top are Nick Flanagan and Jason Scrivener who share a one-shot lead going into the weekend at 13th Beach Golf Links.
Scrivener has three top-10s from four events so far in the 2019 Race to Dubai, and he continued his excellent start to the season as he stayed bogey-free with a second-round 66 to get to 14-under par and set the pace at the end of the morning session.
He was then joined by overnight leader Flanagan, who followed up a ten under par 62 with a second round 68 on the Beach course. He had earlier moved into a slender lead before dropping his only shot of the day on the 16th hole to take a share of the lead with Scrivener, one shot ahead of countryman Wade Ormsby.
“Two solid days’ work,” said Scrivener. “Can’t really fault it. I played nicely, so looking forward to the weekend. Knowing there’s a lot of birdies out there, if you try to rush them you can make mistakes, so it’s just plodding your way around and being smart about it.”
Scrivener has long looked on the cusp of a win and so he is understandably pleased that his hot form has continued Down Under.
“Anytime your game’s in a good place and you’re constantly making cuts and putting yourself in contention, it’s good for confidence.
“I just feel like over the last six months I’ve made some big improvements in my game and steadily progressing the last couple years. I feel like it’s in a good position and I just want to give myself more chances to win tournaments.”
The innovative ISPS Handa Vic Open is making its first appearance on the Race to Dubai, with men and women playing over the same layouts in separate tournaments for equal prize money. The two fields of 156 players have teed off in alternating groups over the Beach and Creek courses in the first two rounds, with the action now set to take place on the Beach layout after the second round cut.
Matt Jager and Brad Kennedy round off an all-Australian top five at 12-under par at the half way point in the men’s event, while Clément Sordet of France, Scot David Law and another Australian in Nick Cullen are one shot further back.
Hoey, Kiwi Ryan Fox and Grant Forrest of Scotland are among a group of seven players at 10-under par.
The men’s tournament at the Barwon Heads venue is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia, while the women’s championship is co-sanctioned by Australian Ladies Professional Golf and the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
Kim Kaufman of the United States holds a two-shot lead over Japan’s Haru Nomura in the women’s event, after back-to-back rounds of 66 took her to 13 under par.
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