West Australian Michael Sim has sent a not-so-subtle reminder of his prodigious talent as he heads into the weekend here at Concord with a two-shot lead and a serious crack at yet another Open title on Australian shores.
Today he marched up the leaderboard with his typically classic golf, eight birdies and bogey-free for what he thinks might be the first time in his career after 36 holes.
“I got off to a fast start. I drove the green on the first and two-putted (for birdie), then hit close irons on two and three for birdie and made a good birdie on seven out of the bunker when I was just trying to make par,” said Sim, who is now based on the Gold Coast.
“I had it going early, five-under through eight. I was saying to the boys after the practice round that I like the golf course. I like playing tree-lined golf. It’s just been two great days, without a bogey. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.”
Asked whether he felt confident leading from the front, Sim said: “I’ve been in this position before. I know what to expect, it’s nothing new to me. I’ve played tournament golf for 20 years now so I know what the feelings are going to be like. Once you get past the first couple of holes you settle into the round and hopefully, there’ll be a few more birdies.”
If Sim adds the Golf Challenge NSW Open to his Qld PGA (2020) and WA Open (2019), it will have been more than eight years since a New South Welshman last lifted the Kel Nagle Cup. The last to do so was Aron Price who triumphed in 2013.
For those keen on a hometown hero all is not lost.
The challenge is coming from Dale S Williamson who followed his opening 66 with a 65 to be at 11 under and in sole second place. Picton’s Justin Warren had nine birdies and two bogeys for a second round 64 to be three back along with Andrew Martin, the TPS Bonnie Doon winner.
Earlier, Nathan Barbieri (-9), amateur Harrison Crowe (-8), Blake Windred (-7), and another amateur Harry Bolton (-7) all took advantage of the kind morning conditions to cement their spots for the weekend.
Barbieri, the 23-year-old from Ryde backed up his first-round 65 with a solid three-under 68 to be at -9 and very much a contender for final groupings tomorrow unless of course someone masters the afternoon conditions. Not bad for a young player in only his third month as a professional golfer.
“I was treating it like another day,” he said of his solid second round to back up his opening 65.
“There’s a lot of birdies out there and I tried not to get ahead of myself. I’m pretty shocked (by my score) and there’s still the afternoon rounds to come but it’s nice to be in a good position early.”
Asked how the course was holding up after armageddon-level rains during the week, Barbieri said: “I actually can’t give enough credit to the greens staff. It was unbelievable coming out here on Tuesday and seeing how wet it was, thinking we’d be playing preferred lies every day. But it’s slowly getting drier and full credit to them (ground staff) for the job they have done”.
The round of the morning belonged to a Canberran in Harry Bolton, who scorched around the par-70 layout in a seven-under masterclass that only had the one flaw – a lone bogey on the super-tough par-3 16.
Bolton, 24, said a recent alignment change and confident putting were behind his round.
“I’ve found something in my ball striking, through switching up my alignment a few weeks ago and it’s really helped my ball flight,” he said.
“I’ve been hitting it solidly off the tee which helps here, especially if you can keep it out of the trees. The greens are unbelievable and I hit a lot of good putts and most of them went in. That’s always nice.”
Bolton found himself in that rarified air of actually looking forward to putting.
“I dripped one in there on nine from 18 feet,” he said. “I didn’t hit the greatest approach but I was telling my caddie that if I could just hit the greens that I’ve been putting well, so it was nice to get that. With the speed of the greens today your lines and speed have to be bang on.
Further back is amateur Harrison Crowe who shot a five-under round to accompany his opening 68, and another who made some long putts on these tricky Concord greens, to be in a great position for the weekend.
“I started off well, birdieing three of my first four,” said Crowe, a favourite son from St Michael’s Golf Club.
“Then I hit the brakes a bit, but when we turned to the back nine I holed two bombs in a row. A bogey (on the 3rd) and double-bogey (4th) weren’t great but then I backed it up with a couple of birdies and then I birdied the last. It was a bit up and down but still a great feeling.”
Other notable scores came from South Australian Jack Thompson who followed up his opening 66 with a three-under round today of 68 to be at -8.