Tough day at NZ Open
The wind relented but the players didn't respond and the upshot is the New Zealand Open is wide open heading into the weekend, with little known Australian Daniel Fox in pole position after holing out for eagle on the 18th late in the day.
It looked as though it would be an incredibly tough day for scoring in the second round at Clearwater; the wind got up early this morning and the average score quickly jumped out to five-over. But it relented in the afternoon, just in time for the bigger guns to take advantage and go low.
Strangely, though, nobody could. In fact, three-under par rounds of 69 from Australians Josh Younger and Brodie Ninyette in the tougher morning conditions could not be topped in what were as good a conditions as you're ever likely to get here at Clearwater in the afternoon.
Daniel Fox came the closest, matching them with a 69 courtesy of a dramatic eagle at the tough par-four 18th, holing his second from the right rough with a nine-iron from 130m to snatch the outright lead late in the afternoon at three-under par. He opened with an even-par 72 yesterday.
"I was just just trying to get it over the bunker and get it onto the green," Fox smiled of his last shot of the day.
The 36-year-old was fizzing, revealing this was the first time he had fronted a press conference. He has never led a tournament of this significance, until today.
Australian amateur Jake Higginbottom was among those to come close to breaking 70, a bogey at the par-four 18th after he found the drink with his second shot seeing him sign for a two-under par 70. The 19-year-old shares second compatriot Ryan Haller, who carded a one-under 71 today.
"It was a good round. I was happy with how I was playing, hopefully I can keep that going," Higginbottom said.
"I'm scoring good but I'm not necessarily hitting it that well."
Higginbottom and Haller are two-under for the tournament, one shot behind Daniel Fox and one ahead of seven players tied for fourth at one-under.
Among that group are the leading Kiwis, Ryan Fox, who had a 73 today, Gareth Paddison (72) and Mathew Perry (71).
New Zealanders Mahal Pearce, Brad Shilton and Peter Spearman-Burn are among a group of six players tied for 11th at even-par.
Ryan Fox was surprised at the lack of low rounds this afternoon.
"It was breezy for four or five holes but to be honest it wasn't too difficult playing the back nine, there were only a couple of hard holes," he said.
"I'm very surprised nobody has got to five or six-under really. There were some tough pin placements today, for sure. The greens here are really tough to read, too. They roll really well but because the grass is quite dark it can be hard to pick a line."
Lurking in a share of 17th place at one-over, after rounds of 74 and 71, is a certain Greg Turner, the 49-year-old two-time former champion who is playing his first Open in 10 years.
"It was all right, I played pretty decently," he said.
"I felty better as the round wore on which is nice because I was buggered yesterday near the end. I just got tired, so I was really trying to keep the energy levels [high] today. I think I ate more on the golf course today than I’ve eaten ever on a golf course."
141 - Daniel Fox (Aust) 72 69
142 - Ryan Haller (Aust) 71 71, Jake Higginbottom (Aust, amateur), 72 70
143 - MATHEW PERRY (NZ) 72 71, Steven Jeffress (Aust) 71 72, RYAN FOX (NZ) 70 73, Craig Hancock (Aust) 68 75, GARETH PADDISON (NZ) 71 72, Michael Wright (Aust) 73 70, Peter Wilson (Aust) 72 71.
144 - Kristopher Mueck (Aust) 70 74, Aaron Townsend (Aust) 73 71, MAHAL PEARCE (NZ) 72 72, BRAD SHILTON (NZ) 71 73, PETER SPEARMAN-BURN (NZ) 73 71, Matthew Ballard (Aust) 71 73.