Matt Kuchar of the United States and 22-year-old Australian amateur David Micheluzzi have their hands on the lead in the #AusOpenGolf midway through the second round.
It shapes as a master-versus-apprentice duel tomorrow as the wisened Kuchar, 40 years of age, once world No. 4 and the epitome of the grinding professional, goes into the weekend at seven-under par. The man from Sea Island, Georgia carved out a 67 today to go with his outstanding 70 on Thursday in the difficult afternoon winds at The Lakes.
Micheluzzi, the reigning Victorian amateur champion and one of Australia’s brightest young prospects, is playing his first-ever Open. But like Kuchar he has conquered the course despite having the worst of the conditions; today he raced to a three-shot lead on his front nine, promptly gave back three shots on consecutive holes, then parachuted in for a 69 that also left him at seven-under par.
There are plenty of players still out on the course but it seems likely that Kuchar and Micheluzzi will head into tomorrow as the leaders.
The nearest challengers at one shot back are Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, American Keegan Bradley, New South Welshman Jordan Zunic and Victoria’s Cameron Percy, all in the clubhouse at six-under par. Western Australian Matt Jager is also at six-under overall through eight holes today.
Kuchar may have come in late for the #AusOpenGolf but he is making up for lost time.
The world No. 29 who won a US PGA Tour event in Mexico just a few days ago, roared to the top of the leaderboard on the second day with consecutive birdies at the fourth and fifth holes. His only big mistake came at the 17th where he hit a ball into the lake, but he was steady and consistent despite the fact that he only made it to Sydney on Wednesday.
Micheluzzi, 22, started on the back nine and immediately birdied the par-four 12th and the par-four 13th from tap-in range, then eagled the par-five 14th to jump from a tie for second place into the outright lead and heady territory.
Another birdie at the par-four 15th hole left him three shots ahead and perhaps pondering a pice of history. Aaron Baddeley is the last amateur to win the national championship, at Royal Sydney in 1999. But bogeys at the par-five 17th where his tee shot found water, at the par-three 18th where his tee shot found long fescue near the green, and at the first where his tee shot flared into sandy wasteland left him fighting to keep control of his round.
Micheluzzi, who still lives with his parents Frank and Claudia at Settlers Run south of Melbourne, shot a wonderful four-under par 68 on Thursday despite getting the worst of the weather conditions with an afternoon tee-time.
Hailing from Cranbourne Golf Club where he was club champion as a teenager, he is the reigning Victorian amateur champion, Master of the Amateurs champion from 2017 and a world junior champion, coming through the Victorian elite amateur programs under coach Marty Joyce.
After his round he said he intended playing as an amateur for another year before turning professional.
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