Byeong Hun An is looking to go wire-to-wire at the Emirates Australian Open after spectacularly reclaiming a share of the lead with an ace late in the second round at The Lakes Golf Club.
The South Korean, who slept on the first-round lead, resumed this afternoon after being leapfrogged at the top of the leaderboard by American draw card Matt Kuchar and Victorian amateur David Micheluzzi.
The 27-year-old An arrived at the 171-metre par-3 15th trailing the aforementioned by one shot. He then used “a soft 7-iron” to score the third hole-in-one of his professional career.
“You have to get lucky to get a hole-in-one, obviously,” said An, who will receive a $16,950 TAG Heuer watch for his efforts.
“Today I had some nice breaks … You need breaks to have the chance to win golf tournaments. You have to play well to get top 10s but to win, you definitely need some luck.”
Thirty-three-year-old Max McCardle ensured An’s solo lead was short lived, however.
The South Australian, who plies his trade in China, posted two late birdies at the 8th and 9th holes to rocket up the leaderboard.
“I’m pretty level at the moment, I’m sure there will be a few nerves tomorrow, but I feel pretty good,” said McCardle, who finished 10th at the 2013 Open at Royal Sydney, which was won by Rory McIlroy.
Earlier, Micheluzzi bolted out of the gates with three birdies and an eagle in his first six holes, eventually signing for three-under 69 to be one shot back heading into the weekend.
The 22-year-old is looking to become the first amateur to lift the Stonehaven Cup since Aaron Baddeley in 1999 – and he is fully aware of the enormity of the situation.
“There is nerves … There has to be nerves because obviously it means something to me,” Micheluzzi said.
“To play in an Australian Open's just awesome. I've been dreaming about it since I was a little kid.
“This is my first one, so the nerves are still there, but I'm trying to do everything just to try to take my mind off it and just play golf, which I really enjoyed today.”
RIGHT: Micheluzzi is hoping to become the first amateur since Aaron Baddeley to lift the Stonehaven Cup.
Joining Micheluzzi in third place is 24-year-old Queenslander Jake McLeod.
The NSW Open champ signed a blemish-free five-under 67 and mirrored the comments made by Micheluzzi.
“I think I'll get a little bit more nervous here … Obviously there's a lot more people, it's our national Open, obviously everyone wants to win it, but I’m really excited as well,” McLeod said.
American Matt Kuchar also shares third place after his five-under 67, while his countryman and fellow draw card Keegan Bradley sits in sixth with Mexican Abraham Ancer.
Cameron Davis continued his eventful defence of the Stonehaven Cup and could easily be in contention save for three disastrous holes, which have cost him nine shots in two rounds.
The 23-year-old Sydneysider managed to sign for three-under 69 and sits nine shots behind the joint leaders.
Meanwhile, reigning Australian PGA champ Cameron Smith (71) and American Brandt Snedeker (72) share 51st.