Wilkinson, Lee struggling at qualifying school

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 13:06 30/11/2012
Danny Lee
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BATTLING: After a strong start to qualifying school, Danny Lee is now struggling at the final stage.

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New Zealand golfers Danny Lee and Tim Wilkinson have gone backwards in a hurry at the final stage qualifying tournament for the 2013 PGA Tour.

Lee and Wilkinson have shot over-par rounds on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West in the second round at La Quinta in California today, leaving both players with a mountain to climb over the next four days.

Lee dropped from 111th to a share of 150th in the 172-strong field after a three-over par 75 today, which followed an opening 72 in yesterday's first round, while Wilkinson fared slightly better with a one-over 73 seeing him drop to even-par for the tournament after opening with a 71. The left-hander has slipped from 82nd to a share of 110th.

The top 25 players and ties after six rounds earn a PGA Tour card for 2013 and seven-under is the current cut-off mark. That means Lee is a whopping 10 shots behind the pace and Wilkinson seven.

Both players failed to get anything going today - Wilkinson had three birdies but will rue two double bogeys in a three-hole stretch before he made the turn while Lee was four-over through nine holes after two bogeys and a double but could only get one shot back coming home.

South Korean Kim Meen-whee had no problem going low, with a nine-under 63 to take the lead at 13-under, one shot ahead of American Vaughn Taylor who had an eight-under 64 today. There are four rounds remaining.

Meanwhile, Auckland professional Cathryn Bristow is going in the right direction as she attempts to join the LPGA Tour in 2013.

Bristow has bounced back from her opening 76 with a one-under par 71 in the second of five rounds in the final stage qualifying tournament at the LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Florida, to climb from 79th into a share of 47th place at three-over.

The top 20 players at the end of five rounds earn full status on the 2013 tour while players who finish 21st through 45 and ties will earn conditional membership.

The final stage will cut to the low 70 players and ties after 72 holes, with those players making the cut competing in the final round. Bristow is four shots back from the top-20, with one-under currently the magic number.

Closer to home, newly crowned New Zealand Open golf champion Jake Higginbottom has backed up after his final day heroics at Clearwater to take the first round lead at the New South Wales PGA Championship.

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The 19-year-old Australian notched nine birdies and two bogeys to post a seven-under par 65 and take a one shot lead over compatriots Brendan Smith and Adam Stephens into today's second round at the Mt Broughton Golf and Country Club in the Southern Highlands of NSW.
New Zealand's Ryan Fox is one of three players in a share of fourth place after a five-under 67, which had a bit of everything.

The Aucklander, who carded an eagle, seven birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey, was also at seven-under par but he had a six at the par-four 17th to drop out of a share of the lead in the $A100,000 PGA Tour of Australasia event.

Waikato's Mathew Perry is the next best Kiwi, tied for 17th after a three-under 69.

Higginbottom became the first amateur winner of the NZ Open since 1956 and the first teenage winner since Sir Bob Charles two years earlier when he carded a final round of five-under 67 to win but a shot at Clearwater in Christchurch last Sunday.

In the wake of his victory in Christchurch, he turned professional, a year earlier than planned.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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