Marc Leishman and Cam Smith stood, cold and wet, on the World Cup abyss and then promptly ran away.
The Australian pair, joint leaders after a hot fourball opening on Thursday, found themselves seven strokes behind Belgium after a wobbly foursomes start in near Antarctic conditions at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Golf Course on Friday.
But in the nick of time, the Aussies, pre-tournament favourites, hit back with three crucial birdies on the trot from the 14th to edge back into contention at the halfway mark.
The Australians’ 76 left them in a share of eighth at six under, but only four behind joint leaders Belgium (71) and Korea (72) who were equal parts stoic and brilliant in conditions that reduced some countries to the golfing equivalent of quivering messes.
So brutal was the rain and wind on occasions that no fewer than five countries signed for scores of worse than 80 with Greece capitulating on the back nine with three triple-bogey sevens en route to an 87.
New Zealand signed for a second-round 76 with the Kiwis finding just one birdie – on the par-five seventh – in a round Mark Brown and Ryan Fox could only describe as a slog that ended at a three-under total and a share of 14th.
Only four nations returned sub-par scores with Belgium joined by Italy (-9) and Scotland (-6) with 71s, while the Mexican combination (-7) of newly crowned Australian Open champion Abraham Ancer and Roberto Diaz were the standouts carding a 70 to slide up to seventh.
Ancer said the pair had played a lot together, including playing together in the same format at the US PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic where they learned the nuances of alternate shot golf.
“We really team well together and it showed today,” Ancer said.
“There’s a lot you need to do to play well (in foursomes) and I think our round today showed we are a good team, especially in those conditions.”
Leishman smiled when asked about the severity of conditions.
“I don’t play when it’s like this normally,” he joked. “If I look out the window and it’s like this, I’m settling in on the couch.
“I’m not making excuses at all, it was the same for everyone … some guys played really well and there’s some good scores out there, just unfortunately not from us.”
The Aussies had their share of bad luck on the front nine, including a ball in an almost unplayable lie in rough on a small island in a greenside bunker on the fourth that resulted in a bogey from almost nowhere.
A three-putt double-bogey on the short sixth was followed by Leishman’s failure to escape a bunker on the 10th and another double-bogey that left the hosts on the edge.
“It’s the simple things, like leaving it in a bunker, you can’t make those mistakes,” Leishman said.
“But looking at the positives, we fought back well there and we’ve got two days to go.
“We were seven back with a few holes to go and then had those three birdies in a row and now we’re four back and it’s not over.”
Smith, who had several good putts stay out, was equally buoyant.
“In conditions like this, stuff like that is bound to happen … but I thought we limited our damage reasonably well,” Smith said.
“Especially that back nine, we played really solid golf. We stuck to our guns and it paid off.”
The third round will be played in a fourball format with Team Australia playing alongside Team France and teeing off at 10.45am while Team New Zealand will be on course with Team Finland at 10am.
For all round 2 scores please visit pga.org.au
For all round 3 tee times please visit pga.org.au
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