Defending champion Cameron Smith leads the Australian PGA Championship after two rounds.
The Queenslander is one in front of World Cup teammate Marc Leishman and NSW Open winner Jake McLeod, with a host of up-and-comers and past champions behind them.
Smith began Friday’s second round at two-under par and got his day off to a hot start, birdieing the first hole and adding another five birdies to one bogey over the front nine to make the turn in five-under 31.
“I was just trying to do my best. I decided I wanted to get to 10 (under), that was kind of my goal before Friday's end, so one off, not too bad. Seven-under, you can never complain about seven-under,” Smith said of his round on day two.
“I just didn't quite have the speed yesterday. I did a little bit of extra work this morning on the practice green and it paid off. I was actually getting putts to the hole today, which is nice.”
Smith added more birdies at 10 and 15, while making pars on the rest of the back nine to sign for a 65 and a tournament total of nine-under.
Playing in the group behind Smith, Leishman held the lead on his own after eight holes having birdied the opening two. But a bogey at the par-5 9th dropped him back to seven-under.
“To make those couple of good putts early was nice and get off to a good start, particularly after not playing awesome yesterday,” Leishman said. “To hit some good shots there on the front nine, I was happy.”
“I hit it in the fairway bunker and the ball was a bit above my feet,” Leishman said of the 9th hole where his second shot found the water.
“I misjudged the wind a bit, and as soon as I hit it, I knew where it was going. Dropped it up there, had a really tough chip. So I was trying to chip it up on the green somewhere and limit the damage, I guess. I didn't play the par-5s great today, which hurt me.”
The Victorian recovered on the back nine with two more birdies but made his lone bogey of the back nine at the 16th “party hole”, where a rare miss-hit found the bunker and a poor lie.
“It's funny, that's one thing I kind of pride myself on is I generally don't miss-hit shots,” Leishman said of his tee shot at the par-3.
RIGHT: Leishman is one shot behind Smith entering the weekend at the Australian PGA Championship. PHOTO: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images.
“That was a massive miss-hit. I thought it might have been possibly in the water. I was happy to see it go in the bunker. To be honest, it deserved to be buried, it was a horrible shot, but ended up probably right where it deserved to. I was happy to make a 4 there and get out of it.”
Joining Leishman at eight-under, one behind Smith, was McLeod, who has made a habit of getting his name high on leaderboards during the summer of golf.
The Queenslander, who played a large amount of junior golf with Smith, reached 11-under par through 12 holes after an eagle at the par-5, before a bogey at the next started a tough home stretch.
“It's a bit of an up-and-down day and it was sort of a lot of good and a lot of bad,” McLeod said of his second round.
“It was just one of those days, but the good was a bit better, so it was nice to have a couple under today.
RIGHT: McLeod went birdie-birdie-eagle after making the turn at Royal Pines on day two of the Australian PGA Championship. PHOTO: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images.
“(Holes) 10, 11, 12 I played awesome throughout that stretch there, which was nice. Yeah, just missed in the wrong spot on 13. I was a bit unlucky, it rolled through the bunker into the rough just out of it.
“I was 150 (metres) away and hit pitching wedge and normally hit my pitching wedge 125, I was just playing to the front of the green and caught a flyer and that's the spot I told myself I couldn't hit it. Then yeah, hit the cart path up 15 and it was in the trees.”
The Queenslander managed to save his par at the par-5 15th before an unfortunate double bogey at the short par-4 17th where he hit his tee shot out of bounds.
McLeod dropped back to eight-under and out of the lead and is set to play the third round alongside Dimi Papadatos, who sits one shot further back and is in a battle with McLeod for the PGA Tour of Australia Order of Merit and a European Tour card.
“I feel like I'm playing really nicely, the putter feels good and I'm hitting it good, McLeod said of his recent form.
“(I) just need to work on sort of distance control stuff with my wedges, but those poor swings, just lack of concentration out there, especially on 17. I should have pulled out, I knew that was not going to end well for myself.”
RIGHT: Papadatos held the early lead after reaching seven-under par in the morning wave. PHOTO: Chris Hyde/Getty Images.
Papadatos is level with Matt Jager and Christopher Wood, who had contrasting days on Friday.
Jager, one of the overnight leaders, grinded for a one-under 71 to keep in touch, while Wood, playing in one of the last groups of the day, fired the second-best round; six-under 65.
Playing behind Jager and Wood on Saturday will be 2016 champion Harold Varner, with one of the main tournament drawcards Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, who sits another shot further back.
The Englishman is hoping his ideal and unique Friday night preparation for what is set to be an exciting third round will be the difference at Royal Pines.
“Steak and boxing, perfect,” Johnston said of watching Anthony Mundine and Jeff Horn fight in Brisbane.
“You know I'm going to have a beer with that as well. Perfect, what an evening.”