They breed them tough north of the border, and in hot and humid conditions at Royal Queensland on Friday there was none tougher than former Australian Amateur winner Jed Morgan.
The 22-year-old Royal Queensland member torched the Mike Clayton layout and the rest of the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship field on his way to a course record 63 early on the second day. His eight-under round taking him to 14-under for the tournament and six shots clear of Andrew Dodt in second.
“Made a lot of putts today, which is nice,” Morgan understated after his round. “It’s always what you want to do. They don’t always go in, but today they did, which is nice and yeah, started off relatively slow again but towards the middle of the round and towards the end built on it, which is good and posted a nice score, pretty happy.”
Starting on the back nine, Morgan made the turn in 31 (-4) and stayed bogey free on the way back to the clubhouse at the same venue he claimed his amateur crown in similar dominating fashion.
Despite his early tee time of 6:25am, Morgan still had the crowd behind him with every move cheered and a clear position as the crowd favourite. Even over first round lead Louis Dobbelaar playing in the group behind who could only manage an even par round to sit in a share of third with Aaron Pike, seven back of the lead at seven-under.
RIGHT: Andrew Dodt sits in second after 36 holes at Royal Queensland. PHOTO: Chris Hyde/Getty Images.
And Morgan, who is mentored by former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting via the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, certainly appreciated the support.
“The members are out here and my family’s out here cheering me on, which is probably the biggest thing,” Morgan said of a comfort level that is clear to anyone who has watched him play over the first 36 holes. “I’ve obviously played here more times than I can remember and obviously won the Amateur here, which is nice to have that behind me. But yeah, it suits my eye off the tee and once you know where to hit it and what spots to hit it to, you just do that and hopefully it all works out and today it did.”
Leaving the course almost immediately after he had signed his scorecard in his flatbed ute, with his blonde mullet flowing, it is hard not to draw comparisons to another Queenslander who had some success last week, Cam Smith.
Morgan has spent time with the World No.10 of late, taking a fishing trip with Smith and Dobbelaar late last year in Florida that has helped shape his attitude towards making a living playing golf.
“He’s (Smith) got an awesome look on things,” Morgan said. “As I’ve gotten to know him a little bit more, he continues just to get better with his view on things. He’s really good at advice. He’s pretty smart in terms of how he works and stuff. He doesn’t exert really much energy elsewhere apart from where it’s important, which is probably the biggest thing I’ve taken from him.”
Smith has of course won two Joe Kirkwood Cups in the past, and while Morgan has eyes on following in his footsteps and a significant advantage to do just that, there is still 36 holes to play. A point Pike was more than happy to point out after signing for a one-under round that could have been much better.
“We’re only halfway through this, so if he (Morgan) can do 14-under – I know it’s a different golf course, we’ve seen in Hawaii the boys just shooting crazy numbers,” Pike said. “The guys are so good these days. It only takes him to just be slightly off, have an even par round and one of us just have something in the mid-60s and all of a sudden it’s game on again.
“It was probably polar opposite of yesterday,” he added of his own play. “Yesterday I probably had the lowest score I could, and today I probably had the highest score I could.”
Dodt, like Pike, is a veteran of his home circuit and playing overseas, and neither will mind the slightly off the radar position they find themselves in as the weekend’s rounds get under way.
Dodt was so under the radar in fact, he managed to slip away following his round of 66 to take second alone without being asked to comment on the round that included seven birdies and two bogeys.
There is plenty of other well-credentialled players lying in the wake of Morgan’s red hot round as well who won’t go down without swinging.
Tournament drawcard Min Woo Lee struggled again to a four-under total and one-under round to sit in T8, while Jake McLeod is one better and like Morgan as a member of Royal Queensland knows how to make birdies around the par-71.
With no shortage of good players waiting in the wings, Morgan has his work cut out for him, and he will be hoping the nerves that have been a constant before each round keep going given the results that feeling has delivered so far this week.
“I’ve obviously played here more times than I can remember and obviously won the Amateur here, which is nice to have that behind me." - Jed Morgan.
“You just feel a bit dull if you don’t get any nerves or you’re not scared of anything, so I just think they just raise your level of golf,” Morgan said.
Morgan’s golf was anything but dull on Friday, and if he plays anything close to what he has produced over the first two days at his home club Australian golf will well and truly welcome a new potential superstar to the fold.
He might even be able to upgrade his ute too.