Sweden's David Lingmerth leads the Australian PGA Championship by one stroke at the halfway stage, while tournament drawcard Brandt Snedeker is home-bound after missing the cut.
BY STEVE KEIPERT AT RACV ROYAL PINES RESORT
ONE tournament drawcard is packing his bags with tail between legs while the other has the lead after two rounds of the Australian PGA Championship.
The polar opposite results sees Brandt Snedeker heading home for Nashville while David Lingmerth carded a four-under 68 to move to three-under to head the leaderboard at the halfway mark.
The chasing pack is growing ever more congested as the Swede nurses a one-shot advantage over six players at two-under and a further five at one-under. Two of the players at two-under, American Peter Uihlein and Spain's Pablo Martin Benavides, made significant moves with five-under 67s, while Australia's Rhein Gibson exploded from outside the cutline and into contention with a scintillating 64. He came home in 29 shots to set a new course record and remains a threat at one-under.
Lingmerth becomes the highest-ranked player left in the field at No.57 in the world. He showed exceptional composure after beginning his Thursday round with a bogey and double-bogey, grafting out a 73 before a six-birdie 68 today that included a run of five birdies in seven holes mid-round.
"It feels kind of crazy in a way with how it all started yesterday," Lingmerth said. "I three-putted the first two holes and I was three-over-par and found myself at four-over after like six holes or whatever, and here we are after two rounds and not only do I have a chance, I guess I’m right at the top there.
"So it’s kind of weird, kind of surreal to be sitting here. After two holes [yesterday] I was like, 'Holy moly, I’m going to have to get going to even make the cut or got to wake up,' and all of a sudden I’m [leading]. It’s been tough conditions and the scores are pretty high and I started playing solid, so I’m not that surprised. I thought maybe five-under or something would be leading after two rounds, but yeah, it’s really weird."
Lingmerth, who broke through on the PGA Tour at the Memorial Tournament in June, is under no illusion as to what lies ahead.
"There’s so many good players on every Tour around the world," he said. "I know that I’ve won on the PGA Tour, probably the strongest Tour in the world, and I know I can do it, so of course that gives me some confidence going into the weekend. But at the same time these are all players that can shoot seven-, eight-under both rounds out there over the weekend, so you never know how it’s going to turn out.
"I’m really going to have to play very well to win but I do feel like I should have a good shot."
The tale was far different for Snedeker, who never found his normally golden putting touch on the new Royal Pines greens. His 75 today was markedly better than yesterday's 84, yet he left the Gold Coast having made just one birdie in 36 holes.
"I definitely feel embarrassed about my play the past two days," Snedeker said. "I'm going to need to come back down here and redeem myself. I appreciate all the fans came out; I feel like they deserved better and my game was not up to it, obviously. But I'll be back down again and can show them a better brand of golf, golf I'm more accustomed to playing."
Uihlein authored a clean scorecard and struck the ball exceptionally well. His 67 was an immense improvement on yesterday's 75 in much more than score alone.
"It was a more efficient [type of] better," he said. "Seventeen greens [hit in regulation], so it was better. My goal was to hit every green and I didn't get that chance on 12 (where Uihlein was forced to hit the green of the par-5 in four shots) but other than that I took every chance I had at every green. Even if I had a wedge, I was just trying to hit the ball well and I was able to do that today."
Canberra’s Matt Millar continues his incredible good form on the Australasian Tour this year, posting a second round 70 to be two under and the leading Australian after 36 holes.
Notable players to miss the cut at six-over included defending champion Greg Chalmers (seven-over), Rod Pampling (11-over) and Peter Senior, who finished 10-over and wielded his famous broomstick putter for the final time before an Australian gallery. He two-putted for bogey at the 18th hole this afternoon, bringing down the curtain on a significant and remarkable portion of his lengthy career. He will be back, however, just with a far shorter flatstick.
After a round of recovery and redemption for many in the PGA field, the weekend promises slightly calmer conditions. A total of 27 players are within five strokes of the lead and the entire remaining field are within nine, setting the scene for an epic two-day shootout.