Three way tie at NZPGA Championship
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2013 New Zealand PGA Pro-Am Championship | Round Two | 01 Mar 2013
The New Zealand PGA Championship has reached the halfway stage at the Hills Golf Club in Queenstown where three players share the lead.
Defending champion Mike Hendry, West Australian Scott Strange and New South Welshman Aaron Townsend lead by one over another New South Welshman in Rohan Blizzard, and two New Zealanders, Gareth Padisson and Michael Long.
Once again conditions were perfect for the morning field and West Australian Scott Strange took full advantage with a round of 63 to lead before the afternoon field got underway. Strange recorded a round of 65 the catalyst for which came from a fast start in which he was 6 under par through eight holes.
That run included an eagle at the par five 17th (his 8th hole of the day) and although he bogeyed his 16th hole he had the clubhouse lead when he finished his round.
Strange is a former winner of the Volvo China Open and the Wales Open during his time on the European Tour but was actually reliant on a tournament invite to get a start in this week’s event. To date he has justified in every respect his inclusion in the field.
“I’ve played good the last two in Toowoomba and 13th Beach down the Vic Open,” said Strange. "I haven’t really rolled the ball and haven’t really got the results and today I’ve probably played just as good and the ball fell for me. That’s the fine line in this game – if they go in they go in, if they don’t you finish mid-field.
Hendry and Townsend played in the afternoon field and Hendry, who is rapidly becoming one of the Australasia’s best, was quickly into stride. By the time he had played ten holes he had the outright lead, one ahead of Strange. Then came a mini disaster. A bogey at the par three 10th was followed by a double bogey at the 14th.
“We had the yardage and were comfortable that a nine iron wasn’t going to go too far and we thought wedge wasn’t going to get over the bunker.," said Hendry. "We hit nine iron and as it was it was a club too much and it just ended up in a really tough spot.”
His misjudgement could have been worse but for a spot of good fortune. “It was right up against a tree but I was lucky as well. There was a little irrigation hose sticking out of the ground that it was basically resting against so I managed to get a free drop from there”
To his credit and like the good player he now is Hendry bounced back with birdies at the 15th and 17th and was again sharing the lead.
At the same time he was finishing his round on the other side of the golf course, joint first round leader Townsend was doing the same. After an early bogey Townsend moved into a share of the lead with birdies at his 17th and 18th holes to finish off his round.
“It wasn’t as easy as yesterday; it was a bit flat out there today. I was playing in a two ball so momentum was a bit slow but I am happy to be in the position that I am,” said Townsend.
“When you are in the lead after two rounds you have to take a bit of confidence from that but there is still a long way to go so I won’t get too excited.”
Interestingly Townsend has won one of the very few events played under this format when he won the NSW Open at the Vintage Golf Club three years ago. The amateur playing with the professionals over the final two rounds will not bother the two time PGA Tour of Australasia winner.
“I really like the format” he added.
Former Australian Amateur Champion Rohan Blizzard, former New Zealand Open Champion Michael Long and an improving Gareth Padisson are right on the heels of the leaders but with 18 players within four shots of the lead, this is still anybody’s race.
Tomorrow the dynamic of the event changes with 64 amateurs joining a professional partner over the final 36 holes. Those amateurs include celebrities Sir Ian Botham, George Gregan, former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson, Australian fashion identity Deborah Hutton, brilliant 15 year old Lydia Ko, New Zealand great Sir Bob Charles along with many others who have played for the privilege to play this emerging event.
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