Norris, Gove lead the way in New Zealand
BY Bruce Young | Web.com Tour | 2009 New Zealand Open | Round Two | 13 Mar 2009
An American and an Australian who played together for the opening two days of the Michael Hill New Zealand Open at the Hills near Queenstown have the 36 hole lead in the event, both players at 10 under.
36 year old Victorian Jason Norris and 37 year old Seattle resident Jeff Gove lead the way, both playing in the morning then afternoon draw on the opening two days and both taking advantage which was arguably the better side of the draw. They have established a one shot lead over last week’s New Zealand PGA Champion Steve Alker and a two shot lead over Americans Alex Prugh and Martin Piller and the West Australian Stephen Dartnall.
16 months after a life threatening accident, Norris has confirmed his almost full recovery with a second round of 65. Norris, who broke his jaw in 13 places and lost most of his teeth in a fall from a bike while skylarking at the Australian PGA Championship in late 2007, has been a regular contender in Tier 2 and Von Nida Tour events in Australia but has not as yet been able to convert that form at a higher level. He gave an indication last week at the New Zealand PGA Championship that his game was nearing its peak with a share of 7th, his best performance in a mainstream event on the Australasian Tour.
“It was a great start today,” said Norris. “I knocked a couple close early then holed a putt and Jeff was playing well so we fed off each other. My 7th place last week helps as it takes a bit of pressure off and the accident has helped me in as much as when you are going bad you can always look back at those times. The way I finished last week’s event has helped my confidence also. I don’t think I am yet a 100% but I am getting close.”
“I played with Jeff last week and he is a nice guy and we had a good time together and we had a great time this week and he is a very good player. We will play again tomorrow also.”
Gove is a three time winner on the Nationwide Tour and a former PGA Tour player. Today he turned in 29 after a stretch of golf late in his opening nine holes that saw him gain six shots between his 5th and 9th holes. That stretch proved the catalyst for his round of 63, just one off the course record set by Peter Fowler in the first staging of this event in 2007.
“That was fun today, said Gove. “Our group got on a bit of a roll and it was fun. I played well in Panama without putting well and then played well last week. Yesterday I played really nice and kind of messed up a good round at the end. I drove it just in front of the green at the 15th and chipped it in for eagle there. I have been struggling with coming up short with those short of shots and decided to play it more aggressively and in it went.”
Alker, looking for two victories in succession following his win last week in Christchurch, opened with a four under par 68 on day one and today moved to 9 under for the tournament before his only dropped shot of the day at the 16th. “I just pushed it right there and in fact am not sure if I was lucky not to go into the water.” A 6 iron to 10 feet at the last set up one final birdie and at 9 under he is well placed to repeat his impressive victory last week.
Alker had the misfortune to lose the services of his regular caddie Shane McInnes in the middle of his round today, his bagman suffering from shin splints before calling it a day at the 11th green. “I think he should be fine tomorrow – he just needs a bunch of ice,” said Alker. “He actually did very well to go 11 holes as he was quite concerned this morning I got concerned myself around the 9th or 10th holes.”
“One of the walking marshalls who had also been at the event in Christchurch carried the bag over the closing few holes and while I was not able to talk through shots with him as I had done with Shane it worked I guess. I gave him a crash course on the 12th like stand there and do this and do that.”
Playing with a determination to enjoy his golf seems to be working for the 37 year old rejuvenated golfer.
The notables to miss the cut included Peter O’Malley, 2007 runner up Paul Sheehan and Danny Lee, the latter of whom was making his last appearance in New Zealand as an amateur before heading to the US where he will turn professional immediately following the Masters.
The cut fell at 1 under par with 64 players making it through to the weekend.