Budding superstar Min Woo Lee has vowed to tap into the mindset of the carefree kid who set last year’s ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth alight after putting himself in a strong position through 36 holes at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.
Belgian World Cup winner Thomas Pieters joined Kiwi Ryan Fox, Victorian Matthew Griffin and Thai Panuphol Pittayarat at the top of the leaderboard at 8-under courtesy of a stunning second round of 6-under 66 in the afternoon wave that had the potential to be so much better.
A total of 67 players made it through to Saturday’s third round where the top-24 at day’s end will move through to Sunday’s match play phase of the tournament.
The only amateur in the field 12 months ago, Perth boy Lee enraptured the home fans with a run all the way to the quarter-finals but admits he is feeling the pressure of returning to his home town as a professional.
Following a fourth-place finish at the Saudi International and with affiliate membership of the European Tour, a strong showing over the weekend could provide the 20-year-old with some short-term certainty around his schedule but he knows he needs a positive approach to give himself that chance.
“If you play carefree, you're going to have a long career,” Lee reasoned after a second round of 3-under 69 that puts him in a tie for 13th heading into Saturday.
“I guess everyone has the nerves. If you do feel the nerves you're doing something well, right?
“I'm embracing it, but hopefully I can get back to that attitude.
“I had more of a nothing-to-lose attitude last year because I was the only amateur playing, but now that you're playing for money and you're playing for your livelihood, there's a bit of pressure.
“I definitely feel it over putts and just shots.
“I'm a much better player than last year. I know the course and I know if I play well, then I can be up there.
“I've had a lot of support over the last two days and it's not even the weekend yet. Pretty pumped to play the next two days.”
Three birdies in his opening four holes in the afternoon sent a jolt of electricity through the healthy Perth crowd that swelled around his group as the round progressed.
After he made bogey at nine he hit back with a birdie at the downhill 10th and a second bogey at the par-4 13th was followed by consecutive birdies at 14 and 15, a bogey at the last preventing him from making even greater inroads on the leaderboard.
“I was just kind of in between clubs,” Lee said of his approach to the 18th that finished left of the green.
“I threw up grass, it was downwind one time and into the wind the other time. A little bit of commitment issues there but I'm happy with my round.
“We're just going to go out there tomorrow and go hard. We want to get that top eight spot so we have less pressure of winning the first round (of match play).
“We're just going to go out there and play some good golf.”
Fellow West Australian Matt Jager is sure to have a strong support network following him also on Saturday after making a late charge up the leaderboard.
The 2010 Australian Amateur champion at Lake Karrinyup, Jager moved into contention with birdies at three, four and seven and added a fourth at the par-5 15th to finish at 7-under par, level with England’s Richard McEvoy and Scottish rookie Robert MacIntyre one shot back of the leaders.
Top-20 at the Australian PGA Championship in December, Jager credits a happy home life and the work he has done with coach Gary Barter in providing clarity on the golf course.
“Obviously went through a few struggles there but I've really turned a corner. I feel really confident with what I'm doing out there at the moment,” said Jager after his round of 4-under 68.
“It was a combination of swing changes and expectations I sort of put on myself which were kind of unnecessary.
“I've had a great few years working with Gary Barter and he's given me a lot of clarity with what I'm doing technically.
“That's really helped with just feeling more confident on the golf course.
“I just feel really settled with where my life's at at the moment and it's translating into some good golf.”
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